SFSU Completes First New Building in 25 Years, Celebrates University’s Technical and Creative Program

SFSU, Mark Cavagnero Associates, McCarthy Building Companies, George and Judy Marcus Hall for the Liberal and Creative Arts, San Francisco
Courtesy of Henrik Kam

By Meghan Hall

San Francisco State University (SFSU) was first established in 1899 and today serves more than 26,000 students. As its student population has grown and their needs have evolved, the university partnered with Mark Cavagnero Associates, McCarthy Building Companies and others, in the creation of the George and Judy Marcus Hall for the Liberal and Creative Arts. The new building will house SFSU’s technical and creative program, strengthening the university’s commitment to arts and media.

“Marcus Hall provides a range of versatile spaces to spark innovation and collaboration, with state-of-the-art technology,” Cavagnero Founder and Principal Mark Cavagnero said upon the building’s dedication. “I hope this new building inspires students and provides them with a space to learn, experiment and create.”

The project rises four stories and totals 75,000 square feet, with the upper three floors dedicated to offices and related classroom space for the Broadcast and Electronic Communication Arts (BECA) program. The ground floor is now home to “highly controlled” environments and acoustically sensitive spaces designed to enhance content creation. Features include a TV newsroom, a radio station, post production space and audio recording space. Two, multi-story television studios, each totaling 4,000 square feet, are also part of the project, as is a 100-seat media presentation space. The spaces within the building are specifically designed to adapt to the rapidly changing technologies that shape the industry.

As the first new building on campus in more than two decades, the project team wanted to set the standard high for future development on campus.

“As the first new academic building in 25 years at SFSU, this building is pivotal in bringing the renowned Broadcasting and Electronic Arts Department from their concrete box home into the futuristic, state-of-the-art facility known as Marcus Hall,” explained Jack Carter, vice president of McCarthy Building Companies’ Northern Pacific Division.

The goal of the project was to offer a flexible, transparent and accessible building for its students. The layout caters to those who seek to work both independently and collaboratively. The structure of the building uses concrete, glass and steel to mold the building’s shape and create a feeling of openness. 

“ BECA’s inclusive approach to teaching and learning, is seen throughout the design and construction by the configurations that encourage interactivity and creativity while maintaining flexibility for both the learning and production environments,” Carter said.

Additional cladding allows the facade to crease and fold in response to solar orientation, which allows for the optimization of both daylight and natural ventilation.

“The placement of the tie-holes which are the indentations in the concrete used during forming were meticulously field located with the project architect to make sure the layout and spacing was achieved to provide uniformity throughout the walls, both inside and out,” said Carter. “The walls are ‘as-cast’ with minimal patching or revised coloring after the fact and reflect the commitment to quality from the tradespeople.”

The project team selected materials that would not only be durable due to the amount of foot traffic it receives, but those that would be able to combat future environmental issues. According to Carter, wildfires and deteriorating air quality were considerations taken into account by the project team when selecting building materials.

“In 2018, the Camp Fire in Butte County, one of the deadliest and most destructive wildfires in California’s history, impacted demolition and grading activities,” noted Carter. “In 2019, the Kincade Fire in Sonoma County, the largest fire of the year, impacted structural steel erection. Finally, in 2020, the August Complex Fire—California’s largest recorded wildfire that spanned six counties—impacted exterior metal panels and sitework.”

The building is named after George Marcus, who graduated in 1965, and Judy Marcus, who graduated in 1962, who donated significant funds to the project. The donation was the largest of its kind in university history, and the new building is the first to be named after any alumni. The pair also established the $25 million George and Judy Marcus Funds for Excellence in Liberal Arts for the university in 2018. San Francisco State also received a large grant from The Herbst Foundation in order to finance the project.

Courtesy of Henrik Kam
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