Everyone knew the creation of Diamond Valley Lake, a reservoir that contains enough reserve water to sustain a drought-stricken Southern California for six months, near Hemet, Calif., would be a massive undertaking—a civil engineering marvel involving more than 40 million cubic yards of foundation excavation for its three dams. What they didn't anticipate, however, was the treasure trove of Pleistocene epoch fossils embedded in the valley floor. Included among the finds: bones and skeletons from mammoth, mastodon, and other species—including the giant long-horned bison and North American lion—whose existence had never been documented in the area.

The thousands of prehistoric remains begged for a place for preservation and interpretation. And thus was born the Western Center for Archaeology and Paleontology. Paired with the Center for Water Education, a nonprofit center whose focus is raising public awareness of the importance of water conservation, the two institutions constitute what's known as the Water + Life campus, which opened in November 2006.

“These museums are a great gift to the community,” says architect Michael B. Lehrer, one of the collaborators on the project. “They are created as artistic elements as well as learning experiences and living laboratories for students and scholars.”

Lehrer, principal of Los Angeles–based Lehrer Architects, joined forces with architect Mark Gangi and his brother, developer/ construction manager Frank Gangi, in a design/build partnership that came together specifically to work on the Diamond Valley Lake museums. Known as Lehrer + Gangi Design + Build, the collaboration dedicated itself to preserving the project's design goals while meeting strict budget limitations.

In truth, the $37 million center is a complex of six separate buildings organized as a monumental frontispiece to the reservoir and a civic-scaled entrance to the monumental rocky, sun-parched site. “It's out in the middle of a large landscape,” says Mark Gangi, of Gangi Architects in Burbank. “So it was important to have an iconic presence.” Ten 46-foot-tall towers march across the façade, evoking images of monumental ruins from far across the valley. With 23 acres of land at its disposal and program needs requiring some 60,000 square feet of space, the design team quickly gravitated toward a campus plan.

The buildings are ordered by a rigorous grid that sets up framed views of the surrounding landscape. Gangi likens the site plan—which features a radial “parking grove,” a stepped garden, and a broad courtyard framed by two loggias—to French garden architecture. “We were inspired by classical examples like Versailles, a building that is powerful from a distance, but dissolves into the landscape as you get closer.” The motive, he adds, was to lend the complex a civic spirit.

Mark Gangi Co-Lead Design Principal Lehrer + Gangi Design + Build
Mark Gangi Co-Lead Design Principal Lehrer + Gangi Design + Build

Because of the conservation goals of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, which is the engine behind Diamond Valley Lake and the Center for Water Education, the architects played the sustainability card early in the design process. “The museums are about the conservation of water and the legacy of the earth,” notes Gangi. “The buildings themselves had to reflect those goals.” The museums exceed California's Title 24 Energy Conformance standards, with 3,000 solar panels that generate 68 percent of the power for the facility. That computes to a projected net savings of about $13 million during their life span.

Michael B. Lehrer Principal Lehrer + Gangi Design + Build
Michael B. Lehrer Principal Lehrer + Gangi Design + Build

By and large, materials choices were made in service of the mandate for energy efficiency and sustainability. “All the cladding materials of the building have the insulation on the exterior—that helps a lot to lower heat gain,” says Gangi. The signature towers, for example, are sheathed in interlocking Centria metal panels backed with foam. “We wanted something that was visually powerful from a distance,” says Gangi. “At the same time, the metal also reflects heat off the building.” The two 156-foot-long, steel-framed loggias are freestanding, topped by custom glass panels imbedded with 6-inch-by-6-inch solar cells manufactured by Sharp. Public education was an important component of the project, so it seemed appropriate to make the solar cells visible in some way. Upon entering, visitors are greeted with an exhibit explaining how the panels work. Most of the buildings' solar power is generated by large photovoltaic arrays out of sight on top of the museums' roofs.

Lehrer + Gangi clad the sides of the loggia frames in three layers of perforated aluminum bands—two rows on the outside columns and one on the inside. Says Lehrer: “As you look through the loggia, it evokes the feeling of water because of the moiré pattern. It looks dense, but it is really just air. It gives light and shadow a place to do its dance.”

Massive banners hang on the east-facing façade of the complex, shading 10,000 square feet of glass from the harsh desert sun. Large-scale pixilated images on fiber-mesh fabric hint at the content of the museums, with blue images on the water side, earth tones on the archaeology side. But their primary function is to aid the pursuit of LEED Gold certification, an intervention resulting from modeling studies by the mechanical engineer that recommended fixed shades to reduce the buildings' cooling load. That played right into the designers' hands. “It makes it look like a lively public place, rather than a public works project,” Gangi says. “And it provides something useful for the museum.”

Inside, a radiant floor system for heating and cooling keeps the temperature stable. But Lehrer and Gangi were not content with simple concrete slabs underfoot. They worked with the exhibit designers and paint contractor to come up with a variety of finishes that lend interest to the floor. Contractors ground off the top layer of concrete to expose the aggregate, then applied a light acid treatment and stained the surface. “So it gives it a very heavy, rocky finish. It looks like stone in some areas,” Gangi points out.

The variety of functions and demand for flexibility led to some strategic choices of doors in the complex. Each museum, for example, has a dedicated classroom/meeting building, and the clients needed to use those spaces for large events such as lectures or for small-scale workshops. A system of Modern-fold operable partitions provided the solution, allowing the two classrooms to operate as one large space or up to four small meeting rooms. The rest of the interior that isn't devoted to public space is devoted to exhibition space. In the Western Center for Archaeology and Paleontology, those spaces include actual fossils recovered from the lake site, models showcasing the ancient creatures, and workstations, like that shown above, which allow visitors to interact with digital information and samples to get a glimpse into the world of the scientists who recovered the specimens.

Thresholds from the service yards into the respective galleries or laboratories are fitted with industrial metal roll-up doors to accommodate large artifacts or exhibit components. “They may have anything from a large bone to a covered wagon that will come into the museum space,” says Gangi. While most of the interior doors are metal, the desire to bring daylight deep into the administrative areas of the water education center prompted the use of glass doors on perimeter offices.

The environmental mandate guided many other specifications, including sustainable Interface carpet, low-VOC paints from Frazee Paint, and Quarry Tile Co.'s EcoTile, which contains approximately 34 percent recycled material. In the restrooms, water-saving fixtures—including water-free urinals donated by Sloan Valve and dual-flush Caroma toilets—reinforce the conservation ethic. And, ultimately, the message is what this place is all about, says Lehrer: “We feel we have built something that is of consequence,” he notes. “It is beautiful, it is sustainable, and we delivered on what we promised.”
Vernon Mays

PROJECT The Center for Water Education and Western Center for Archaeology and Paleontology
LOCATION Hemet, Calif.
CLIENT The Center for Water Education and Western Center for Archaeology and Paleontology
ARCHITECT Lehrer + Gangi Design + Build, Los Angeles—Michael B. Lehrer, Mark Gangi (principals); Anne Marie Kaufman Perlov (project architect); Jonathan Dawang, Steve Deyer, Jovan Gayton, Monica Grau, Han Hsieh, Nerin Kadribegovic, Chris Mundweil, Yuri Osipov, Maria Rockstroh, Robin Sakahara (project team)
ENGINEERS Jovan Gayton (project); KPFF Consulting Engineers (civil); Nabih Youssef & Associates (structural); IBE Consulting Engineers (mechanical and plumbing); Vector Delta Design Group (electrical and solar); Geomatrix Consultants (soils)
CONSTRUCTION MANAGER Lehrer + Gangi Design + Build
LANDSCAPE ARCHITECT Mia Lehrer & Associates
CONSULTANTS Zinner Consultants (LEED); Design Craftsmen (exhibit designers); F/X Scenery & Display (TV studio interior and set); WSI (TV studio weather first station)
PHOTOGRAPHERS Benny Chan; Michael B. Lehrer; Mark Gangi
COST $36,819,064
SQUARE FOOTAGE 62,215 square feet
COMPLETED November 2006

PRODUCT SPECS

STRUCTURE LOCATION Throughout
PRODUCT Steel deck
MANUFACTURER ASC Steel Deck
WEBSITEwww.ascsteeldeck.com

LOCATION Throughout
PRODUCT Stud fasteners
MANUFACTURER Nelson Stud Welding
WEBSITEwww.nelsonstud.com

LOCATION Throughout
PRODUCT Steel structure
MANUFACTURER Columbia Steel Inc.
WEBSITEwww.columbiasteelinc.com

LOCATION Throughout
PRODUCT Steel stud framing
MANUFACTURER Cemco
WEBSITEwww.cemcosteel.com


EXTERIOR CLADDING LOCATION Throughout
PRODUCT Masonry
MANUFACTURER Orco Block
WEBSITEwww.orco.com

LOCATION Throughout
PRODUCT Metal and glass curtain wall
MANUFACTURER Vistawall
WEBSITEwww.vistawall.com

LOCATION Throughout
PRODUCT Composite metal panel
MANUFACTURER Centria
WEBSITEwww.centria.com

LOCATION Throughout
PRODUCT EIFS and ACM
MANUFACTURER Parex
WEBSITEwww.parex.com


ROOFING LOCATION Throughout
PRODUCT Single-ply membrane
MANUFACTURER Carlisle SynTec
WEBSITEwww.carlisle-syntec.com


WINDOWS & GLAZING LOCATION Throughout
PRODUCT Aluminum windows
MANUFACTURER Vistawall
WEBSITEwww.vistawall.com

LOCATION Windows
PRODUCT Glass
MANUFACTURER Viracon
WEBSITEwww.viracon.com

LOCATION Skylights
PRODUCT Glass
MANUFACTURER Naturalite
WEBSITEwww.naturalite.com


DOORS LOCATION Exterior
PRODUCT Footgrills
MANUFACTURER Mats Inc.
WEBSITEwww.matsinc.com

LOCATION Exterior
PRODUCT Metal doors
MANUFACTURER Steel Craft
WEBSITEwww.steelcraft.com

LOCATION Exterior
PRODUCT Rolling doors
MANUFACTURER Cookson Co.
WEBSITEwww.cooksondoor.com

LOCATION Throughout
PRODUCT Wood doors
MANUFACTURER Oshkosh
WEBSITEwww.oshkoshdoor.com

LOCATION Throughout
PRODUCT Gates
MANUFACTURER Alynnco

LOCATION Throughout
PRODUCT Locksets
MANUFACTURER Schlage
WEBSITEwww.schlage.com

LOCATION Throughout
PRODUCT Locksets
MANUFACTURER Adams Rite
WEBSITEwww.adamsrite.com

LOCATION Throughout
PRODUCT Hinges
MANUFACTURER Ives
WEBSITEwww.ives-doorhardware.com

LOCATION Throughout
PRODUCT Hinges
MANUFACTURER Rixson
WEBSITEwww.rixsonpivot.com

LOCATION Throughout
PRODUCT Closers
MANUFACTURER LCN
WEBSITEwww.lcnclosers.com

LOCATION Throughout
PRODUCT Door closers
MANUFACTURER Glynn-Johnson
WEBSITEwww.glynn-johnson.com

LOCATION Throughout
PRODUCT Door closers
MANUFACTURER Ives
WEBSITEwww.ives-door-hardware.com

LOCATION Throughout
PRODUCT Door closers
MANUFACTURER Rixson
WEBSITEwww.rixsonpivot.com

LOCATION Throughout
PRODUCT Exit devices
MANUFACTURER Von Duprin
WEBSITEwww.vonduprin.com

LOCATION Throughout
PRODUCT Pulls
MANUFACTURER Von Duprin
WEBSITEwww.vonduprin.com

LOCATION Throughout
PRODUCT Pulls
MANUFACTURER Trimco
WEBSITEwww.trimcobbw.com

LOCATION Exterior doors
PRODUCT Pulls
MANUFACTURER Ives
WEBSITEwww.ives-door-hardware.com

LOCATION Throughout
PRODUCT Pulls
MANUFACTURER Dorma
WEBSITEwww.dorma.com

LOCATION Exterior doors
PRODUCT Security devices
MANUFACTURER Von Duprin
WEBSITEwww.vonduprin.com


CEILINGS LOCATION Exhibition halls
PRODUCT Acoustical ceilings
MANUFACTURER Celotex
WEBSITEwww.bpb-na.com

LOCATION Throughout
PRODUCT Suspension grid
MANUFACTURER Chicago Metallic
WEBSITEwww.chicagometallic.com

LOCATION Throughout
PRODUCT Hinges
MANUFACTURER Rixson
WEBSITEwww.rixsonpivot.com


WALLS & FLOORS LOCATION Throughout
PRODUCT Operable partitions
MANUFACTURER Modernfold
WEBSITEwww.modernfold.com

LOCATION Bathroom floors and walls
PRODUCT EcoTile
MANUFACTURER Quarry Tile Co.
WEBSITEwww.quarrytile.com

LOCATION Exhibition halls
PRODUCT Carpet
MANUFACTURER Interface Carpet
WEBSITEwww.interfaceinc.com


FINISHES & PAINTS LOCATION Throughout
PRODUCT Paints and stains
MANUFACTURER Frazee Paint
WEBSITEwww.frazee.com

LOCATION Throughout
PRODUCT Wall base
MANUFACTURER Burke Industries
WEBSITEwww.burkeind.com

LOCATION Bathroom floors and walls
PRODUCT EcoTile
MANUFACTURER Quarry Tile Co.
WEBSITEwww.quarrytile.com

LOCATION Throughout
PRODUCT Gypsum
MANUFACTURER USG
WEBSITEwww.usg.com

LOCATION Exhibition Halls
PRODUCT Carpet
MANUFACTURER Interface Carpet
WEBSITEwww.interfaceinc.com


FURNISHINGS LOCATION Exhibition halls
PRODUCT Steel Laboratory
MANUFACTURER Kewaunee Scientific
WEBSITEwww.kewaunee.com

LOCATION Offices
PRODUCT Furniture
MANUFACTURER Knoll
WEBSITEwww.knoll.com

LOCATION Reception
PRODUCT Furniture
MANUFACTURER Knoll
WEBSITEwww.knoll.com

LOCATION Lobby
PRODUCT Chairs
MANUFACTURER Knoll
WEBSITEwww.knoll.com

LOCATION Lobby
PRODUCT Tables
MANUFACTURER Knoll
WEBSITEwww.knoll.com

LOCATION Bathrooms
PRODUCT Granite counters
MANUFACTURER Dal-Tile
WEBSITEwww.daltile.com


LIGHTING LOCATION Throughout
PRODUCT Interior ambient lighting
MANUFACTURER Linear Lighting
WEBSITEwww.linearltg.com

LOCATION Throughout
PRODUCT Interior ambient lighting
MANUFACTURER Prudential Lighting
WEBSITEwww.prulite.com

LOCATION Throughout
PRODUCT Downlights
MANUFACTURER Prudential Lighting
WEBSITEwww.prulite.com

LOCATION Throughout
PRODUCT Task lighting
MANUFACTURER Prudential Lighting
WEBSITEwww.prulite.com

LOCATION Exterior
PRODUCT Exterior lighting
MANUFACTURER Prudential Lighting
WEBSITEwww.prulite.com

LOCATION Exhibition halls
PRODUCT Exhibit controls
MANUFACTURER Electronic Theatre Controls
WEBSITEwww.etcconnect.com


PLUMBING & FIXTURES LOCATION Throughout
PRODUCT Water fountains
MANUFACTURER Haws
WEBSITEwww.hawsco.com

LOCATION Restrooms
PRODUCT Self-Generating Hydro Power System sensor faucet with standard spout
MANUFACTURER Toto
WEBSITEwww.totousa.com

LOCATION Restrooms
PRODUCT Water-saving toilet
MANUFACTURER Caroma
WEBSITEwww.caromausa.com

LOCATION Restrooms
PRODUCT Water-free urinals
MANUFACTURER Sloan Valve
WEBSITEwww.sloanvalve.com


HVAC LOCATION Throughout
PRODUCT Radiant floor heating and cooling
MANUFACTURER Wirsbo
WEBSITEwww.uponor-usa.com

LOCATION Throughout
PRODUCT A/C units
MANUFACTURER McQuay
WEBSITEwww.mcquay.com

LOCATION Throughout
PRODUCT Chiller
MANUFACTURER Carrier
WEBSITEwww.carrier.com


SOLAR SYSTEM LOCATION Roof
PRODUCT Flat-roof photovoltaic panels
MANUFACTURER Sharp
WEBSITE solar.sharpusa.com

LOCATION Roof
PRODUCT Building-integrated photovoltaic panels
MANUFACTURER Golden Solar Energy Inc.
WEBSITEwww.goldensolar.com

LOCATION Roof
PRODUCT Inverters
MANUFACTURER Sunny Boy
WEBSITEwww.sma-america.com