Los Angeles Valley College Monarch Center

Valley Glen, California

Dynamic views and strong colors energize new student union

Located at the heart of the campus, Monarch Center uses an open floor plan surrounding a plaza to blur the boundaries between exterior and interior. The bustling, two-story student hub offers access to a wide variety of spaces for students to gather, study and socialize. The 66,000-square-foot building—which earned LEED Silver certification—includes a student lounge, cafeteria, bookstore, convenience store, health center and administrative offices.

Los Angeles Valley College was largely a commuter campus and wanted to create an on-campus home for students. A top priority was to maintain exposure to the existing campus mall and adjacent sustainable park, also designed by LPA. The design solution elevates the student union, clad in vibrant yellow panels, and uses large-span structures to keep the ground plane open and free of excessive columns.

Organized as a U-shaped plan, bold-colored exteriors give each of the three wings a strong identity, with those same color themes carried into the interior. Abundant glazing connects inside to outside and saves energy by taking advantage of natural light; this transparency also makes the large building feel less monolithic and more inviting. A dramatic sloped roof with deep overhangs soars 40 feet over the main entry. In addition to providing essential shade, the 20,000-square-foot roof collects rainwater and releases it into bioretention ponds in the surrounding park.

The new sustainable park links the two ends of campus and winds through and under the new student union. The park features drought-tolerant plants, small hardscape islands and a natural stone swale that filters stormwater. As a third project component, a separate 1000-car parking structure includes stairs that exit at park’s edge and lead to the main entry plaza.

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