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SMUD Headquarters | by Dreyfuss + Blackford Architecture
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SMUD Headquarters

In 2010 the SMUD Headquarters was inducted into the National Register of Historic Places.

 

Design began on the Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD) Headquarters building in 1958, by 1961 construction was complete.

 

The client desired a dramatic, monumental building with careful attention to the environmental issues, including full sun control and an energy efficient air conditioning and heating system; with flexibility for expected immediate and long-term growth. One of the energy efficient features of the project is the use of solar shades on the exterior of the building which move with the sun. The building was designed for, and continues to house central administration and service facilities for SMUD.

 

The two wings of the 166,000 square foot building are linked by an elevator and service core. The south wing encloses three clear-spanned floors of flexible office space over a lobby, auditorium, and demonstration areas. The basement of the south wing was designed to comprise the building’s cafeteria, mailroom and general storage areas. The north wing includes two floors of flexible office space over three levels of garage parking provided for staff vehicles. Tree-shaded parking is available for visitors and employees. The 15-acre site is densely landscaped featuring granite boulders and a variety of trees. The building has matured successfully over the years and is still used as originally designed. No significant changes have taken place since the original construction. The exterior has been well-maintained, and the interior has had typical upgrades for a 50 year old building.

 

Water City Mural by Wayne Thiebaud

A major design feature, a glass mosaic by a young Wayne Thiebaud, encircles the first level of the building. He was virtually unknown at the time and this was his first glass mosaic, which is now considered irreplaceable and priceless.

 

Wayne Thiebaud was a relatively unknown artist teaching at Sacramento City College in 1958 when Dreyfuss & Blackford selected him to do a mosaic mural for the new building’s façade.

 

Along with SMUD, they decided something bright and beautiful was needed to increase interest in the building when viewed both at a distance, through the trees, and up close as people walked under the surrounding portico.

 

Thiebaud submitted two sketches to choose from, both of which were to be executed in glass mosaic tiles. One was bold, with large blocks of black, brown, orange and gray on a white background, a solid color abstract. Dreyfuss & Blackford chose instead a delicate design of a city reflected in water, and Thiebaud was then commissioned by the SMUD Board to make full drawings for four panels, each 15 feet high and over 200 feet long.

 

The artist worked in a large hall at the old State Fair to project each sketch in full size. Color areas were numbered by reference to 58 shades of sample tiles. Predominant colors are variations of orange, red, and blue.

 

A detailed study was made by Dreyfuss & Blackford to determine how and where such a mosaic could be manufactured. After much review and consideration, a muralist school in Florence, Italy was finally selected to prepare the mural. Theibaud’s drawings, on rolls of butcher paper, were rolled and sent to Italy where the mural was rendered in tessera glass tile, a process involving a great deal of handwork. The completed tiles were then shipped back to San Francisco, trucked to Sacramento, and mortared into place.

 

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Taken on August 3, 2009