outside of building

AIA design awards go to Chapman’s Digital Media Arts Center on Cypress Street

A historic industrial building that sat empty until it was transformed into a unique arts facility by Chapman University has won a preservation design award from the American Institute of Architects Long Beach/ South Bay Chapter.

AC Martin Architects was awarded a Citation Award in the Historic Preservation Category for its design of the
Digital Media Arts Center
on Cypress Street, across from the Dodge College’s Marion Knott Studios, in Old Towne Orange. The building formerly housed The California Wire & Cable Company. It’s now home to Chapman’s
Digital Arts


Industrial design of the past meets its contemporary counterpart in the DMAC, home to Chapman University’s Digital Arts Program. Here a portion of the old industrial building is transformed into an animation studio. (Photo/Tom Bonner)

Among the distinct elements of the design was the restoration of the original brick façade and the renovation of the clerestory windows and the interior cross-strut beams, which create a light and open work interior. Such attention to the building’s historic integrity particularly impressed the judges, who in their citation remarks wrote: “We commend them for leaving the original building alone – they didn’t over design it.”

The Digital Media Arts Center, called the DMAC for short, now houses state-of-the-art studios, classrooms, a screening theater and an open-air patio flanked by a 357-space parking structure that was part of the overall repurposing of the site. The Orange County Chapter of the American Institute of Architects also honored the building with a Citation Award in the Commercial Built Category.

digital media arts center

Natural light floods student work areas in the DMAC, thanks to the building’s vintage clerestory windows. (Photo/ Tom Bonner)

“It is quite the honor for the project to be recognized by two distinguished chapters of the American Institute of Architects considering all the remarkable projects being constructed in the Southern California,” said Kris Olsen, vice president of Campus Planning and Operations. “Most importantly, it’s significant that a historic preservation project should win in a region of the country that is not known for that discipline. Architects can be the toughest critics of another’s work, and rightfully so, which make this recognition all the more satisfying.”


The restored brick facade of the DMAC pays homage to its industrial history in Old Towne Orange. (Photo/ Tom Bonner)


Dawn Bonker

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