In planning and designing The Center, the architects were struck by the beauty of the many historic oak trees throughout the Menlo Atherton area, and especially by the grove of oaks on the east side of the M-A campus. The building has been oriented to take advantage of this by positioning the lobby on axis with the grove, and conceiving of the lobby structure and glass as a tree-like environment. This axis is further amplified by the design of an inviting courtyard depressed somewhat below the surface, which can serve as a gathering or performance space.

Recognizing the low-lying character of the existing M-A campus, the architects conceived of a sloping roofscape which descends to the level of the surrounding buildings in order to reduce the apparent size of the nearly seventy-foot high stage area. This height is further reduced by the inclusion of a sloped earthen mound against the south wall of the project (visible from Middlefield Road) which will be planted in a drought-resistant grass, and create the impression that the structure is following the contours of an already existing hill.

On the campus side, the architects have created a number of student-oriented amenities, beginning with an access ramp to the upper lobby, which will function as both an opportunity for theater-goers to have an overview of the campus at intermission, and as a special location for studying, gathering, or just hanging out.

Near the entrance to the campus, the roof is again supported by a tree-like structure, which creates a sheltered outdoor terrace dominated by a large “community” table. The architects hope that this will become a welcoming place for guests and students alike, as it is located adjacent to both the multi-purpose room and serving area, from which lunches and snacks may be obtained. Also near the entrance are three music practice rooms, whose generous windows will allow visitors to glimpse young musicians at work.