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Emeryville Center for the Arts

Making Room for the Arts

A new arts center reaches out to the community, infusing daily life with art.

Building Beyond Bounds

To Emeryville arts patrons an old brick warehouse next to city hall was the perfect site for a new center for visual and performing arts. The competition-winning proposal by JENSEN expands the building structurally and programmatically, with distinctly new volumes extending from the existing brick frame, and with flexible indoor and outdoor spaces. Light-filled galleries and a theater engage with a café, store and courtyard to create an open, community hub hosting an ever-changing calendar of programs, events and activities. The transparent additions showcase the activities inside and act as built signage for the programs within.

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ECA MockUp B01(v12)

Public Performance

Public space permeates the site from all sides. Nested between City Hall and the Center, “Celebration Plaza” is animated by the activities of children’s education programs and arts festivals. A parking lot doubles as a “Market Plaza” for farmers’ stalls and art fairs. Benches, movable seating, bike racks, and food carts enliven the “Ramblas,” a widened sidewalk along Hollis Street. Even the rooftop is public: above the theater rests an open-air flex space with city and bay views for special events and programs hosted by the Center and the community.

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ECA Courtyard 3

Swing Shift

The strategy of overlapping program allows the Center to become a sort of performance in its own right, while making the most of the valuable space. Large hangar doors, for instance, open up the theater to the courtyard, letting performances and events spill outdoors. With this “swing shift” design, the space can expand and contract to create the perfect fit for Center’s public programming and exhibitions.

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Community Workshop

The fluid and transparent Center entices visitors inside to observe and even participate in the creative process as it unfolds. Artists-in-residence will activate the “Art Vitrine” along 40th Street with installations and performances, transforming the street into a public art space. A workshop with tools and machinery for the production of art references the history of Emeryville and the site. Intended for use by both the Center and the community, the workshop connotes process as much as product, inviting a different kind of community involvement with art.

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Emeryville Center for the Arts


California Home + Design, “Jensen Architects' Emeryville Contemporary Art Center,” February 2011
Architect's Newspaper, “Keep It Local” February 8, 2011
San Francisco Chronicle, “A Catalyst for Community,” December 9, 2010


Project Leads
Mark Jensen
Steven Huegli
Dean Orr
Project Team
Andy Pluess
Ricardo Gonzalez
Hanya Chen
Oona Lyons


Surface Design
Tom Leader
Fisher Dachs Associates
Civil & Surveyor
Luk Associates
Mechanical, Electrical & Plumbing
WSP Flack + Kurtz
Construction Manager
Rollo & Ridley
Built Ecology / WSP Flack + Kurtz
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