One on One with Greg Tate


Behind the (Construction) Curtain at the Festival of Arts

By Gina Dostler

The new façade at the Festival of Arts in Laguna Beach is nearing completion, just weeks away from the start of the summer festival. Greg Tate, associate principal and technical director at Bauer Architects, reveals that a now visible rammed earth wall is just the beginning in terms of what is in store for the project, which will include a second phase that reworks the interior, to be completed next year.

Q: How’s the project coming along?

A: The earth wall has been completed and it is absolutely terrific. We can’t thank Brad Mimlitz enough for his artistry and expertise in creating such a beautiful structure. But what we have in store is going to knock people’s socks-off. Everything we’ve designed captures attention in a dramatic way that uses the artistry of many talented craftsmen. But at the same time draws from the natural beauty of the surrounding canyon and arts district along Laguna Canyon Road.

Q: It’s been a long time in the making.

A: The desire to renovate has been in the works for 20 plus years. We are so lucky to be a part of the Festival’s efforts, after all the fund-raising and hard work to initiate the project. We now can synthesize their ideas and build their dreams. It’s been a collaborative effort to design the project, but it’s definitely Jay Bauer’s DNA embedded in the whole composition. We’ve all contributed to the design, but I’m the one who is raising it out of the ground to shape it into what you see and experience.

Q: What’s the premise of the design?

A: Basically we were asked to renovate and re-imagine their existing façade and did that by bringing the canyon and the art together. This includes a new entry, new site walls and new concrete plaza in front.

Q: The image of trees layered in copper is genius. How was it done?

A: We photographed the trees in the canyon and digitized the pattern and sent it to our metal worker to cut out the copper per our spec. Two layers in different colors of patina were used, a green color in the background and brown color in the foreground resulting in the image of trees. So if you are going south on Laguna Canyon Road, when you round the bend, the copper walls are very prominent. And going north, the copper wall with the banners draws the same type of attention. Both copper structures and the rammed earth wall are meant to funnel the crowds naturally into the main entrance.

Q: The two Torrey pines, did you keep those in the design?

A: Yes we did. An arborist came in and advised us on the design of the copper walls for the banners. If the walls were to be placed right on them it would have cut into the roots. Instead we ended up using caissons to bridge over the root structures.

Q: Any challenges on the job?

A: It certainly has had its challenges. I’ve been with this project since its concept and have overseen every aspect of its design and construction. This puts me in the field a lot, but I like being out there solving problems. We started construction in October with four months out of the year unable to work because of the Festival of Arts’ summer events. This limited time frame meant we needed a high degree of cooperation from everyone involved for the production to stay on schedule.

Q: A lot of people were involved in this project.

A: Some of the sub-contractors we worked with were really great – CCI for the concrete entry and plaza; Earth Wall Builders; Trident Steel for the canopy and wall structure, Creative Metals for the patented metals, and of course Doug Hood, the project superintendent at KPRS. And certainly give much thanks to FOA board president, Fred Sattler along with the board members, design committee and city planning and building staff for all their time and effort. We really encountered a lot of talented and dedicated people who helped create this project.

Q: You’re a problem solver.

A: You know, I’d rather have a site that has more challenges and demands to it than a big blank site. I think solutions are better derived out of more challenges. You have to be creative to fit a solution into the problem. I find having to respond to the environment makes for a better design.

Q: What do you do on your time off?

A: Well, when I’m not working, I’m surfing. I’m also organizing my father, George Tate’s work. He was a photographer and took images of mid-century Southern California that are on display at Craig Krull Gallery in Santa Monica. I worked lots of summers with my dad, lugging his equipment around for him. It was great experience for me. He taught me how to see things, to notice the small details in life. I’ve never forgotten that.

Greg Tate

Technical Director, Associate Principal

Bauer Architects

2507 West Coast Highway, Suite 202

Newport Beach, CA 92663