Emerson College campus by Morphosis places
curvy classrooms within a hollow frame


Thom Mayne's Los Angeles firm Morphosis has completed a new Hollywood campus for arts school Emerson College where a rectangular frame surrounds a curvaceous cluster of classrooms (+ slideshow).

Emerson College Los Angeles by Morphosis

Situated in the heart of the entertainment industry on Sunset Boulevard, Emerson College Los Angeles will accommodate over 200 undergraduate students from the renowned creative arts and communication school based in Boston, Massachusetts.

Emerson College Los Angeles by Morphosis

The building's frame-like outer volume accommodates ten storeys of student housing, while the curving central sections contain teaching facilities and staff administration, amidst a series of terraces and connecting bridges.

Emerson College Los Angeles by Morphosis

"The building is designed to expand the interactive, social aspect of education," said Thom Mayne. "We focused on creating with the broader community in mind - both in terms of public space and sustainable design."

Emerson College Los Angeles by Morphosis

The east and west-facing sides of the building feature glazed curtain walls and are screened by an intelligent shading system where horizontal fins angle open or closed to suit changes in light, temperature and the angle of the sun.

Emerson College Los Angeles by Morphosis

Rigging and audio-visual equipment are also incorporated into the facade's metal framework, accommodating various outdoor performances and events.

Emerson College Los Angeles by Morphosis

"The entire building becomes a stage set for student films, screenings and industry events, with the Hollywood sign, the city of Los Angeles and the Pacific Ocean in the distance providing added scenery," said the design team.

Emerson College Los Angeles by Morphosis

Teaching areas and workspaces within the facility include video-editing suites, computer laboratories, a film screening room, sound mixing suites, and live performance spaces. There's also a green wall at the north-west corner.

Emerson College Los Angeles by Morphosis

Photography is by Iwan Baan.

Here's a design statement from Morphosis:

Emerson College Los Angeles

Based in Boston, Massachusetts, Emerson is renowned for its communication and arts curriculum. Located in the heart of Hollywood, Emerson College Los Angeles (ELA) defines the college's identity in the centre of the entertainment industry and the second largest city in the United States. The new facility establishes a permanent home on Sunset Boulevard for Emerson College's existing undergraduate internship program that will extend the ELA experience to students studying in any of the seven disciplines that are offered through the School of Communication and the School of the Arts. Additionally, ELA will offer post-graduate, certificate, and professional study programs. The new facility will also host workshops, lectures, and other events to engage with alumni and the LA community.

Bringing student housing, instructional facilities, and administrative offices to one location, ELA condenses the diversity of a college campus into an urban site. Evoking the concentrated energy of East-Coast metropolitan centres in an iconic Los Angeles setting, a rich dialogue emerges between students' educational background and their professional futures.

Emerson College Los Angeles by Morphosis

Fundamental to the Emerson Los Angeles experience, student living circumstances give structure to the overall building. Housing up to 217 students, the domestic zones frame a dynamic core dedicated to creativity, learning, and social interaction. Composed of two slender residential towers connected by a helistop, the 10-storey square frame encloses a central open volume to create a flexible outdoor "room".

A sculpted form housing classrooms and administrative offices weaves through the void, defining multi-level terraces and active interstitial spaces that foster informal social activity and creative cross-pollination. Looking out onto the multi-level terrace, exterior corridors to student suites and common rooms are shaded by an undulating, textured metal scrim spanning the full height of the towers' interior face.

Looking to the local context, the centre finds a provocative precedent in the interiority of Hollywood film studios, where outwardly regular facades house flexible, fantastical spaces within. With rigging for screens, media connections, sound, and lighting incorporated into the facade's metal framework, this dynamic visual backdrop also serves as a flexible armature for outdoor performances. The entire building becomes a stage set for student films, screenings, and industry events, with the Hollywood sign, the city of Los Angeles, and the Pacific Ocean in the distance providing added scenery.

Emerson College Los Angeles by Morphosis

Anticipated to achieve a LEED Gold rating, the new centre champions Emerson's commitment to both sustainable design and community responsibility. Wrapping the building's northwest corner, a green wall underscores the towers' actively changing exterior skin. Connected to weather stations that track the local climate, temperature, and sun angle, the automated sunshade system opens and closes horizontal fins outside the high-performance glass curtain-wall to minimise heat gain while maximising daylight and views. Further green initiatives include the use of recycled and rapidly renewable building materials, installation of efficient fixtures to reduce water use by 40%, energy savings in heating and cooling through a passive valence system, and a building management and commissioning infrastructure to monitor and optimise efficiency of all systems.

  • Somebody in 1999

    This is so awesome.

  • A marvellous innovation.

  • I absolutely love this. Don’t ask me why, but I do.

  • Chris MacDonald


  • amsam

    I was okay with Cooper Union and the New School. But with the price of tuition what it is, I feel like the architecture of schools might be a bit less insanely ostentatious.

  • Romain_M

    The idea of a self contained campus is very interesting!

  • rayrayboomboom

    I drive past this building everyday on my way to work. It’s as stunning in person as it is in photographs. Makes me want to go back to school!

    • SCAQTony

      The Catholic church used the same tactic during the renaissance. I am glad they went all out, for it is inspiring.

  • jaxe

    Reminds me of the ghost from The Ring crawling out of the TV set, except it’s now a horrifying building.

  • ii

    Why isn’t there any plan views?