Pleasanton Firehouse Art Center, Pleasanton, Calif., Designed by ELS Architecture and Urban Design
David Wakely
Pleasanton Firehouse Art Center, Pleasanton, Calif., Designed by ELS Architecture and Urban Design
Jul 22, 2011

ELS Architecture and Urban Design transforms a historic firehouse site into an active venue for the presentation of visual and performing arts in Pleasanton, California


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Pleasanton Firehouse Art Center, Pleasanton, Calif., Designed by ELS Architecture and Urban Design_01

“We felt the historic structure should be clearly identifiable both inside and out while remaining a strong, functional part of the plan. The project site boundaries were very close to the building, less than 15 feet on the civic and park sides,” says Kurt Schindler, principal, ELS Architecture and Urban Design. “The building is relatively small, and the budget limited, while the appetite for activities to be included was large.” Additionally, the design needed to balance the needs of its visual and performing arts constituents so everyone would feel comfortable using the facility.

Pleasanton Firehouse Art Center, Pleasanton, Calif., Designed by ELS Architecture and Urban Design_02 ELS decided a two-pronged approach was best. The firm restored the existing firehouse, converting the 812-square-foot apparatus bay on the ground floor into an intimate gallery space then incorporated a new 1194-square-foot addition to serve as a second gallery space. The second-floor of the firehouse, formerly the dormitory and kitchen area, now hosts the center’s administrative offices.
Pleasanton Firehouse Art Center, Pleasanton, Calif., Designed by ELS Architecture and Urban Design_03 Next door, a two-story, 240-seat Studio Theater was constructed. Inside the theater boasts rich hues on the walls and aisle rails to add depth without drawing attention away from the stage performances.
Pleasanton Firehouse Art Center, Pleasanton, Calif., Designed by ELS Architecture and Urban Design_04 The upper floor of the new theater building houses two art studio classrooms to host educational programs and events; a second-story pedestrian glass bridge links back to the old firehouse to facilitate circulation of the administrative staff.
Pleasanton Firehouse Art Center, Pleasanton, Calif., Designed by ELS Architecture and Urban Design_05 A 1000-square-foot, glass-walled lobby rests between the center's two structures to visually separate the gallery and theater functions. Glass marquees with abstract floral patterns, designed by English artist Martin Donlin, adorn the exterior entrance.
Pleasanton Firehouse Art Center, Pleasanton, Calif., Designed by ELS Architecture and Urban Design_06 Mirroring the variety of functions supported within its walls, the center's façade encompasses an assortment of materials. The park-side exterior wall features a skin of vertically aligned soft cedar wood planks, which offer an organic context to the project. Saturated plaster around the main entrance and glass inclusions adds a grounding depth that balances the contrast between the rustic brick aesthetic of the original firehouse and the addition's sleek and contemporary style.
Pleasanton Firehouse Art Center, Pleasanton, Calif., Designed by ELS Architecture and Urban Design_07 Schindler notes that his favorite part of the project was collaborating with the community’s Task Force, which had a total of about 20 members, during the programming and concept design processes. “It was very exciting,” he says. “Focusing the discussion, identifying opportunities, developing alternatives, and developing a consensus were challenging, but necessary to gain community support.”