Laguna Beach Community & Susi-Q Senior Center

Laguna Beach, California

S U B M I T T E D    B Y

LPA Inc. in Irvine, California

Size: 20,500-square feet

Project Cost: $15.3 million

Quick Tour:

Community Center:

  • Lobby
  • Reception
  • Recreation office
  • Kitchen
  • Dance exercise studios
  • Storage
  • Conference room
  • Art studio

Senior Center:

  • Administration
  • Storage
  • Reception
  • Lobby/lounge
  • Multipurpose room
  • Kitchen
  • Computer and game rooms
  • Library/lounge
  • Multipurpose room with Outreach and Consultation office


he Laguna Beach Community and Susi-Q Senior Center was the product of strong community collaboration and support that resulted in a facility that has become an integral part of the community. The 20,000-square-foot, $15 million facility is the first public building built in the city in more than 15 years, and is situated between downtown and bordering residential neighborhoods.

A series of public meetings and close interaction with city staff enabled the design team to carefully hone the building's program to meet diverse needs.

"The architect worked hand-in-hand with the residents from the beginning," said Mayor Pro Tem Elizabeth Pearson. "They strived to get to know our community and our values before ever putting pencil to paper. The resulting work exceeded the community's expectations and has led to a doubling of the use of our senior and kids programs and services."

Working within the constraints mandated by the adjacent residential neighborhood, the Community Center needed to include exercise studios, a conference room and an art studio, while the Senior Center needed to include a library, reading area, multipurpose room, kitchen, computer room, game room and wellness center. Working in concert, the community, design team, neighbors and elected officials were able to develop a sustainably designed project that meets the needs of all parties.

The creative and unique design recalls the city's regional features and heritage. The city evolved into an artists' colony in the 1920s and has always had a strong sense of place. Existing historic structures located on the site were photographed and relocated to a city-owned site where they remain available for anyone able to relocate them to a legal building site. These cottages also were the inspiration for the building's design concept.

Despite the programmatic needs for this project, the mass and scale of the building contributed to the village character and reflected the natural beauty of Laguna Beach by using a mixture of materials, including wood, stone, metals and plaster. These materials were selected based on their ability to blend with the adjacent neighborhood and the natural surrounding that incorporated an abundance of vegetation and unique hillsides.

The building's craftsman theme reflects the historic beach cottages of Laguna Beach with varied rooflines, terraces and courtyards. The building's U-shaped formation separates the various functions and provides a unique central courtyard and three other outdoor spaces.

Given the severe fiscal environment municipalities face, special consideration was given to the long-term operations and maintenance of the facility. The city carefully weighed a number of sustainable design strategies and ultimately chose an approach that focused on natural light, natural and low-maintenance materials that include high levels of recycled material when available. The integration of outdoor and indoor spaces embraces the coastal climate by maximizing natural light and ventilations into all spaces.

The new building exceeded the community's expectations and has increased access to programs for children, adults and seniors by providing a centralized location for community members to go for wellness services, friendship, support and recreational activities.


W H A T   T H E   J U D G E S   S A I D

"A well crafted, aesthetically pleasing solution. Although the floor plan is basic, it is cost-effective and there are some unique features to the interiors, i.e., the folding doors."

Susan Wallover

"Nice cottage theme carried throughout the building. Nice use of natural daylighting."

Dennis Berkshire

"The warmth of the building comes from the wood material and detailing on the exterior and interior. Great use of natural light and views. What a connection to the outdoors!"

Frank Beans

"The building works beautifully with the site. Sensitive and creative solution to multiple challenges. The facility feels like it belongs to this community. It evokes a sense of history celebrating the old beach houses that originally existed."

Dave Larson

A S S O C I A T E D    F I R M S

Structural Engineer: Culp & Tanner

Mechanical/Plumbing Engineer: Tsuchiyama Kaino & Carter

Electrical Engineer: Konsortum 1

Civil Engineer: MCE Consultants

Program Manager: Griffin Structures Inc.

Landscape Design: Borthwick Guy Bettenhausen Inc.

Construction Manager: Swinerton Builders

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