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Emerson College makes bold move in Hollywood

Emerson’s campus in Los Angeles has garnered critical praise.Iwan Baan/handout

Hollywood has a new star.

It is Emerson College’s gleaming new 107,400-square-foot campus building on the famed Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles, right in the heart of Hollywood and its movie studios.

With construction of the flashy $85 million facility completed last year, the Boston school officially has opened its “Emerson College Los Angeles” campus building to rave reviews. Its striking look can best be described as cubes of aluminum and glass, shaped into a hollowed-out square, all 10 stories high.

Many colleges and universities have established small satellite campuses elsewhere, usually overseas and often in Europe. In recent years, Boston’s Northeastern University has taken that concept a step further by opening satellite campuses in rented facilities in Charlotte in 2011 and in Seattle last year.


Now Emerson College has upped the ante by building, not renting, its own satellite campus. Los Angeles Times architecture critic Christopher Hawthorne called it “impressive, monumental and supremely self-conscious all at once.”

Emerson, which has run undergrad studies and internship programs in California for 27 years, previously leased classrooms and administrative space in nearby Burbank. Every semester, about 100 students headed west from Boston for undergrad classes there.

But Emerson president M. Lee Pelton said the school’s more than 4,000 alumni living around Los Angeles have long urged the college to establish a permanent satellite home in the area. The new L.A. campus building — which includes screening rooms, studios, audio and video labs, dorms, and classrooms — was designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Thom Mayne.

Emerson isn’t bashful about taking bows for the end results.

“What Emerson has done is build an already iconic, stunning building in the heart of Los Angeles,” said Pelton. “What Emerson has done in Los Angeles is distinctive.”

Jay Fitzgerald can be reached at jayfitzmedia@gmail.com.