In S.F. State arts center, a potential breakthrough for Michael Maltzan


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The Los Angeles architect Michael Maltzan is known for a number of quietly forceful, thoughtfully executed small and mid-size projects, including the Inner-City Arts complex on the edge of downtown L.A.’s skid row and the Billy Wilder Theater at UCLA’s Hammer Museum. Many of Maltzan’s larger commissions, though, including an art museum for Fresno, have stalled or fallen through. In that sense he has shared a frustration common to L.A. architects of his generation, searching in vain for the chance to take on sizable civic projects.

Thanks to San Francisco State University, Maltzan’s wait on that score may be coming to an end. The university on Thursday released preliminary designs by Maltzan’s firm for the $268-million Mashouf Performing Arts Center, which will include five separate performance spaces ranging in size from 60 to 1,200 seats. While the faceted, block-like geometry and bright white palette of the project will be familiar to anybody who has followed Maltzan’s work, the scale won’t be: At 242,000 square feet, the complex would be more than six and a half times the size of Inner-City Arts.


The acoustician on the center is Yasuhisa Toyota, who worked with Frank Gehry on Walt Disney Concert Hall and the new Miami home of the New World Symphony. (Maltzan got to know Toyota when the architect worked in Gehry’s office.) A spokeswoman for S.F. State, Nan Broadbent, said that the university hopes to build the project in three phases, with 20% of the funding coming from private sources. She added that $11.7-million in donations, or roughly 70% of the private fundraising goal for the first phase, which is to include the largest of the auditoriums, has been secured. Groundbreaking is expected in December 2012.

The center is named for S.F. State alumni Manny Mashouf and Neda Nobari, who in 2007 made a $10-million gift to the university, the largest private donation in its history.

Several more renderings after the jump.

--Christopher Hawthorne

Renderings of the Mashouf Performing Arts Center, planned for the campus of San Francisco State University, courtesy Michael Maltzan Architecture.