McKinnon Center for Global Affairs at Occidental College

Building centralizes politics, foreign languages and other global-affairs programs

Old meets new at the McKinnon Center for Global Affairs, a 40,000-square-foot facility that was formerly known as the 100-year-old Johnson Hall at Occidental College (Oxy) in Los Angeles.


Politics, foreign languages and other global affairs-related majors are some of the Oxy’s most popular fields of study, but there hadn’t been a centralized location for these students and faculty, says Derek Shearer, director of the McKinnon Center.

Administrators turned to Johnson Hall, an academic building that had the right square footage to meet the center’s needs but was dated.

“From the outside, it’s one of our most famous and oldest buildings on campus, but inside it was run down and depressing with narrow halls and no particular theme,” Shearer says. “We thought it was the perfect opportunity to create an open, fun space dedicated to one of Oxy’s greatest strengths, its global studies program.”


After nearly two years of renovations, Johnson Hall reopened as the McKinnon Center for Global Affairs. Architect Hagy Belzberg widened the hallways to include study spaces. Classrooms were remodeled with transparent walls looking into the building’s central atrium, where an LED-lit media wall of sculpted glass and digital signage highlights student and faculty research.

“The goal was to create a space where students can stay to have discussions and ignite interest for courses or departments they wouldn’t have discovered otherwise,” Belzburg says.

The McKinnon Center’s other thematic touches include two welcome signs, placed near the two main entrances, that greet guests in 11 different languages, as well as international flags and posters that showcase the global affairs program.

“I’ve overheard such exciting comments from prospective students and parents who are impressed by the new space,” Shearer says. “But at the end of the day, academic buildings are only as good as the people who use them, and our great faculty, students and programs are using the McKinnon Center to create a greater impact. We’ve been given the gift of a building that will keep on giving.”

TIMELINE: Completed in August 2013, dedicated in April 2014

COST: $11.5-million

PROJECT TEAM: Belzberg Architects, (Santa Monica, Calif.), building design; Second Story, part of SapientNitro (Portland, Ore.), media wall design


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