Lucasfilm’s Letterman Digital Arts Center

Project Profiles

Lucasfilm’s Letterman Digital Arts Center

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Bill Browning served as the lead green design consultant for a team charged with designing a new facility for Lucasfilm, the legendary film production company that created Star Wars and Indiana Jones. Working with the team over three years, Bill helped identify opportunities and guide the development of the project, which eventually earned LEED Gold certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. The 860,000 square foot facility is located on the 23 acre site of the former Letterman Hospital in historic Presidio National Park, once a U.S. Army base. While largely an office complex, other amenities include a blue-screen stage, several digital screening areas, a 15,000 square foot childcare center, an international restaurant, and a public café, The Center is also home to Lucasfilm subsidiaries LucasArts and Industrial Light & Magic.

Letterman Digital Arts Center overview. Copyright Ste3ve/Flickr.

A site plan drawing showing an aerial perspective of the Letterman Digital Arts Center in Presidio National Park. Copyright ste3ve/Flickr.

The project’s driving ambition was to design a world-class facility for Lucasfilm staff, an enjoyable and creative environment that would enhance the work experience. Fundamental to the design of the Center was a desire to maintain the character of the Presidio while restoring the site and integrating new structures into the surrounding National Park. The new facility would also achieve advanced standards for energy efficiency and create an accessible pedestrian environment, minimizing vehicular traffic in the area and on site. In addition, a new public garden would further enhance the pedestrian appeal. Challenges of the project included an exceptionally high plug load due to the computer density – nearly three per desk – and need for data centers for one of the entertainment industry’s largest computer networks.

Of the Center’s 23 acres, 17 are preserved as public park space. Though appearing to be many separate buildings in an L-shaped configuration, the entire complex is one structure that sits atop a podium of 1,500 parking spaces, allowing abundant green space to be maintained above. The complex is characterized by daylight-rich spaces, and utilizes passively-controlled mixed modes of natural ventilation and air-conditioning. As a result, the building consumes an estimated 60% less energy than a standard office building of comparable size. Particular attention was paid to the Center’s landscaping, which uses both native and culturally-relevant species. Additionally, the stormwater system cleverly uses public water features as reservoirs.


*Work performed by Bill Browning in affiliation with Rocky Mountain Institute.

*Header image courtesy of Bill Browning

*Feature image copyright The Presidio

Nighttime at Lucasfilm's Letterman Digital Arts Center. Copyright --Mark--/Flickr.

Nighttime at Lucasfilm’s Letterman Digital Arts Center. Copyright –Mark–/Flickr.

Cas is a biological engineer with a passion for technology based in and inspired by biology. He served as the project manager for Terrapin's technology development services. Cas believes that using biotechnology will lead to a more bountiful and prosperous world for all living things.