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Pragmatic Arcadia

Ernest J. Kump -- Sasaki Walker & Associates

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Xululabs, Xululabs

Project Name

Pragmatic Arcadia

Project Status


Year Completed



5,314,320 sq. feet


  • Masten & Hurd


Past P/A

Project Description

In the 1950s, California’s system of community colleges was expanding as the first wave of baby boomers approached college age. Chosen in 1958 to design Foothill College in Los Altos Hills was Ernest J. Kump, with associate architects Masten & Hurd. Working closely with landscape architects Sasaki Walker & Associates, the team produced a memorable learning environment.

The 122-acre site allowed the college to occupy a modest plateau, with the necessary parking dispersed at lower elevations. To emphasize the unity of the school and permit program flexibility, the architects devised a set of one-story building types based on function, with no distinction between academic departments. Classrooms are in rectangular buildings with hipped roofs and walls of redwood siding and glazing; lecture halls are in distinctive hexagonal structures in the same design vocabulary; faculty offices are in linear flat-roofed buildings with brick walls. A larger scale identifies facilities of campuswide importance such as the library, student union, and gymnasium.

All academic buildings are assembled of structurally and mechanically self-sufficient 60-by-68-foot modules. Structural support is concentrated in exterior concrete columns that project beyond exterior infill walls, and interior partitions can be located freely on 4-foot modules. Shingled roofs with deep eaves are topped with parapets that conceal projections of the mechanical systems housed in the ample attics.

Completed in 1962 in accordance with the P/A Award–winning design, Foothill College remains remarkably intact today—with only a few sensitive additions—and it continues to serve its original purpose with distinction.
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