Craft Center Returns to Connect Campus and Community
In 2012, the popular UC San Diego Craft Center abruptly closed. Students, staff and faculty, who enjoyed a variety of non-credit classes and programs including ceramics and glass blowing to photography and weaving, were shocked and saddened. But the uproar from neighbors, who for decades also enjoyed the center that connected the campus and community, was surprising.
“For 40 years, the craft center was a nexus for off-campus community, staff and students to come together in creativity and collaboration,” said Russell King, associate director of strategic initiatives for UC San Diego’s Housing, Dining and Hospitality. “Unfortunately, when a condition analysis of the Crafts Center identified $1.5 million in needed renovation work, the campus didn’t have the budget to rebuild or space to move the facility, so it had to close.”
Fast forward to 2018 and the long-awaited announcement that a re-envisioned Craft Center will be part of the new North Torrey Pines Living and Learning Neighborhood. King, whose introduction to the Craft Center years ago was in a neon sign making class, said passionate campus and community advocates played a key role in making the vision for a new center into reality.
“When the original craft center closed, a committee of community members, staff and students began meeting to work on ideas to renovate its old building or look for ways to build a new center,” explained King. “The committee was in regular contact with university leaders, but was not able to find a solution. As the campus developed the North Torrey Pines Living and Learning Neighborhood, the Craft Center seemed to be a good fit with the project goals of creating unique ways for people to come together who may not normally have an opportunity to work together.”
The group convened frequently to help identify options and opportunities for a new space. The new 11,000-square-foot facility will be located directly above the neighborhood’s main dining hall. The location offers the opportunity to integrate the Craft Center into a dynamically mixed-use neighborhood, readily accessible to student residents, easily approached from classes or events, and footsteps away from dining and entertainment. Direct access to parking and the nearby trolley stop will connect this space to community neighbors.
The design enables the inclusion of favorite classes from the past, such as ceramics, while welcoming new programs, such as surfboard shaping. To supplement a core course catalog, the space has the architectural flexibility to accommodate activities blending programs from the past with new interests.
Inside the Craft Center will be a mix of classrooms, dedicated studios and facilities with specialized light-industrial equipment such as kilns, ovens and printing presses. With architectural features such as glassed-in instructional space, the Craft Center will invite participation. Versatile indoor/outdoor transitions optimize the special year-round advantage of the coastal climate.
King said, “We have worked with a number of craftspeople to understand their workflow process. We have also gone on site visits to a number of studios and craft centers to learn more about their program so we can use their good ideas and lessons learned.” He added that the response from the community about the new Craft Center and its programs has been very positive.
Funding is in place to bring back much of what the Craft Center offered in the past, while philanthropic support is welcomed to make possible the inclusion of additional courses and programs. To learn more, please visit UC San Diego’s Crowdsurf website.