MOR & Co.


Waiting Land



The California College of the Arts owned two additional vacant lots adjacent to the San Francisco Campus. Unfortunately, both lots were zoned for no more than 20% educational use. The existing building was grandfathered in and CCA was in the process of attempting to claim entitlement on the vacant lot by petitioning to remove the property line and combine the two parcels. In the interim, while they organized and fundraised for additional permanent structures, they were looking to explore experimental possibilities, possible revenue generators and cost reductions that the vacant land might offer. 


How might we challenge the current Art & Design education, take full advantage of the location and lead future generations of designers and makers into a more sustainable tomorrow with future use of this land? 


Assess the situation and uncover future possibilities for the 2.4 acre vacant lot residing behind the California College of the Art’s main building in San Francisco, CA. Develop a strategic framework for how the "Waiting Land" may address the needs of all stakeholders in an innovative, fiscally responsible manner while staying true to CCA’s intention as an educational and cultural institution to cultivate intellectual curiosity, risk taking, collaboration, innovation, compassion and integrity.

Role: Design Strategist + Researcher

Timeline: 3 months (2013)


  • Identified all user-groups within the institution and key stakeholders
  • Developed and executed research plan (with stakeholder-ready deliverables created for all) to identify core objectives including:
    • ethnographic observation and camera journaling
    • student survey and faculty/partner interviews
    • focus groups
    • event standards analysis
    • programming analysis of existing structure and competitive analysis of CCA's SF campus
    • user-group empathy mapping 
  • Core objectives found were:
    • Reduce current event related expenditures
    • Provide necessary space for student exhibition and increased enrollment
    • Provide new revenue source(s) to help fund future construction or self-sustain
    • Elevate the Reputation of CCA
  • Vision and goals statement created and shared with key stakeholders for approval along with research and initial strategy recommendations
  • Opportunities for increased environmental sustainability, additional site analysis and preliminary cost analysis for initial concepts explored
  • Stakeholder workshop designed and conducted to more deeply explore proposed strategies for achieving these objectives and to brainstorm low-barrier initiatives and business models
  • Developed comprehensive deck outlining action plan and timeline for key stakeholders (presentation also given)



  • In 2014, CCA called on architecture faculty member Douglas Burnham's architectural firm, envelope a+d, to create the finalized plans for interim use building on our findings and core strategies 
  • By Spring of 2015, CCA realized the first phase - the Back Lot - a multipurpose outdoor studio for recreation, making, and learning - a kind of "gridded game board" populated by both designed and off-the-shelf movable playing pieces: greenery in tubs, 8-by-40-by-10-foot steel storage containers, a 100-foot-long picnic table that breaks down into modular components, trees in mobile planters, bicycle storage components. Here you will also find the welding studio, the materials reuse center, the cement and plaster studio, and the Backlot FARM
  • Areas within the Back Lot can easily be reserved online by CCA staff and faculty for events, classes, and installations.
Sarah GallimoreComment