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. 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. Chapman University’s purchase of the building signifies a dedication to the preservation of this local historic landmark.
The Sandi Simon Center for Dance houses studio spaces for one-on-one and small groups instruction, performance space for small concerts and master classes, and a faculty studio and offices. The center addresses not only the studio and classroom needs of the program, but also provides spaces for students to socially engage as well.
LOHA’s adaptive reuse strategy opens the structure through a calculated cut through the original floor, allowing a reorganization into three levels and forming a new circulation through the former packing house. Entering through the courtyard at bottom floor, sunlight that was central to the growth of the oranges permeates this entryway arriving at each of the floors and introduces a multi floor atrium in which galleries transition into dance studios and communal spaces transition into classrooms.
At the base of the atrium, wood from the former flooring of the packing house is repurposed into massing defining the base of the gallery. Walking up the stairs, visitors enter a vibrant gathering area in the gallery where students connect, warm up, and take breaks. This space is central to the community of the Dance Center, which utilizes built in furniture to harness the impromptu social setting. Light radiates through the polycarbonate walls and windows defining the dance studios and visually connecting the to the passerby, breaking down distinctions between practice and performance.
As the visitor makes their way to the top-level loft, they encounter a quite refuge with carved out spaces for reading, studying, and soft conversation. The furniture moves around freely to construct improvised rooms, but perfectly fits into the recessions to rest. Tucked into a meeting room, kitchenette, or classroom, visitors have ascended to the iconic sawtooth ceiling. From this vantage point, the movement from below seems choreographed as viewed from this elevated stage.