Lorcan O'Herlihy Architects - LOHA - Sandi Simon Center for Dance, a new education and performing arts center at Chapman University
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Sandi Simon Center for Dance, a new education and performing arts center at Chapman University

Lorcan O'Herlihy Architects - LOHA

Education  /  Completed
Lorcan O'Herlihy Architects - LOHA

The Sandi Simon Center for Dance is an expansive new education and performing arts center at Chapman University that redefines a former orange packing house. Landmarked by the National Register of Historic Places, LOHA’s adaptive reuse strategy preserves the exterior identity while opening the interior structure with a calculated cut through the original floor that allows for a reorganization into three levels and forms a new circulation through the space. The Dance Center houses five studios for dance instruction, a performance studio that provides space for small concerts and master classes, two classrooms, a training room, and faculty offices. It addresses not only the studio and classroom needs of the dance program, but also provides spaces for students to socially engage.

Originally built as a two-story headquarters for the Santiago Orange Growers Association in 1918, the post and beam heavy timber frame building is representative of the industrial vernacular style of its time. Villa Park Orchards Association took over the building in the late 1960s to expand its operations. LOHA’s adaptive reuse strategy required precise planning and innovative strategies to transform the former orange packing house, from a one-story warehouse space with an unused, uninhabitable basement, into a multi-level Center for Dance. This process included celebrating unique elements of the existing building, utilizing the original wood flooring as a material for the new design, and incorporating new structural elements.

Retention and adaptive reuse of large historic buildings is the very essence of energy conservation and the most important component of a life cycle analysis that results in a solution that is much more sustainable than new construction. The rehabilitation included other features to enhance continued building sustainability, such as: natural light wells through to all three floors, precluding the need for electric lighting during the day; retaining and enhancing areas of exterior overhang, providing solar shading; reusing existing maple flooring as interior cladding; a four-story atrium that allows for heat-stack passive cooling.

The design approach of opening the former floor of the 1918 orange packing building allows light to permeate from the historic sawtooth roof—with its north-facing clerestory windows--to all levels of the Dance Center. This innovative strategy preserves the exterior identity of the culturally and historically significant shell, while amplifying the beautiful features of the interior. Polycarbonate, selected for its reflectivity and translucency, layers walls and openings in ways that allow the architecture to reflect the ideas of movement and the ephemeral nature of performance embodied in the program. Enormous historic trusses were left exposed and rendered at once lofty by the view from the lowest level and tangible from the proximity to them at the mezzanine; and historic, operable clerestory windows have been retrofit with actuators to open and expel heat when triggered by the mechanical system. The three levels allow for student performances, studios, classrooms, and study spaces within the vibrant circulation and encourages interactions and conversations to spill out of the studios into the atrium between classes, into the courtyard for warm up, yoga, social space, and into the larger campus.

“The recently opened Sandi Simon Center for Dance (SSCD) at the Packing House provides a new home for a premiere academic program to flourish. As a physical anchor, it fosters cross campus connections through its performance studio and through its physical linkages both to the emerging north-south Cypress Street Arts Corridor and the soon-to-be east-west campus Philosophers Walk” - Collette Creppell


 California, USA
 Chapman University
 Dance School, Performing Arts Theater, Classrooms, Dance Studios, Study Spaces, Offices
 6689 mq
 Lorcan O'Herlihy Architects [LOHA]
 Principal-in-Charge: Lorcan O’Herlihy Project Director: Ghazal Khezri Project Lead: Joe Tarr, Abel Garcia Project Team: Morgan Starkey, Kathryn Sonnabend Project Assist: Kevin Murray, Wentao Guo
 R.D. Olson
 Structural: Structural Focus MEP: Buro Happold Civil: KPFF Acoustical: Veneklasen Associates Historic: Historic Resources Group Signage: IN-FO.CO Theatre Consultant: Auerbach Pollock Friedlander Architectural Lighting: Auerbach Glasow and HLB
 Windows Metal frame: Arcadia Interior Finishes Paints and stains: Dunn Edwards Solid surfacing: Caesarstone Floor and wall tile: Arktura (acoustic wall tile); Capri (rubber cork floor tiles) Carpet: Tarkett Special interior finishes unique to this project: Extech (polycarbonate panels); Westcoat (concrete microtopping); Rosebrand (theatrical drapery) Furnishings Upholstery: Ultrafabrics/Camira Other furniture: Hussey (telescoping seating)
 Eric Staudenmaier


Founded in 1994 by Lorcan O’Herlihy, FAIA, Lorcan O’Herlihy Architects [LOHA] is an internationally renowned architecture and urban design firm of twenty-five designers. LOHA has built a robust portfolio of work rooted in embracing architecture’s role as a catalyst for social equity and a tool to combat the climate crisis. The firm’s socially responsible ideals and ecologically sustainable mission inform each project, whether homeless housing in South Los Angeles, working with grassroots neighborhood advocates in Detroit, or designing cultural institutions like Chapman University Dance School. LOHA has built over 100 projects across three continents. Among them housing, art galleries, bus shelters, mixed-use developments, and urban plans. Lorcan O’Herlihy and LOHA have been published in over 20 countries and recognized with 150-plus awards.


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