Project College of the Desert

College of the Desert Visual Arts Building

Palm Desert, California
Art in the Desert

Nestled in the shade of a palm oasis, the new Visual Arts Building provides students an art-making environment while attracting the wider campus community. Artists can be inspired in their indoor and outdoor classrooms, use exhibit space for work, and take advantage of a multipurpose room for interdisciplinary classes, lectures, and exhibits.

People are welcomed through a portal leading into a protected courtyard where learning and creation are nurtured. Daylight from rooftop monitors floods the interiors with soft light while their projecting profiles evoke the surrounding mountain peaks.

The site’s desert tones inspired the selection of exterior materials; exposed steel and custom perforated panels protect the building and outdoor spaces from the harsh sun. The collaborative, open work studio encourages the role of the students as young artists by creating a neutral palette allowing the artwork to be the focus of the spaces.

The anchor for a reconceived Arts District, one that signifies the creative, artistic programs located within.
Adaptive to its Environment

Taking a cue from highly adaptive native desert flora, this building protects itself from the extreme temperatures which can exceed 120°F in the summer months. By extending large overhangs to the south and west the building is shaded against extreme solar exposure while creating protected outdoor work areas.

Project Team

Leigh Christy
Chris Waight
Eric Aukee
Nick Seierup