Palomar College Humanities Building

San Marcos, California

Precise detailing and materials draw the eye to streamlined campus structure

The Humanities Building, located on the Palomar College San Marcos campus, occupies a narrow site between the LPA-designed Multidisciplinary Building and Learning Resource Center. Designers embraced the site footprint’s bar-shaped form and transformed what could have been a massive, mundane structure into an elegant, streamlined campus building.

Hemmed in by limited site dimensions, the three-story, 70,000-square-foot building reuses the footprint of a previous structure, a strategy that maximized functional space while minimizing site work costs and campus disruption. The Humanities Building houses a range of academic programs that includes journalism and communication, English, foreign languages, ESL, and a reading and writing center.

The exterior materials palette combines rich terracotta cladding, sleek metal panels, exposed concrete and high-performance aluminum windows. A continuous band of ribbon windows separates the first and second floor, making the upper two-story mass appear to float. Taking advantage of the long north elevation, which provides greatest protection from solar heat gain and glare, abundant windows let in natural light and offer classroom views toward the new Resource Center.

LPA’s integrated team of designers and engineers worked together to set a low structural height and minimize tall rooftop equipment. That effort preserved fourth-story views from the adjacent Learning Center over the Humanities Building. Further, by keeping the roof clear of mechanical penthouses, the team was able to leverage that open area for an expansive PV panel array. This solar harvesting was one of many green measures that earned the project LEED Gold certification.

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