Mendocino College North County Center

Mendocino College North County Center

Willits, CA

The Mendocino College North County Center is a small satellite campus bringing new energy to downtown Willits, home of The Skunk Train and town center for surrounding rural communities of North Mendocino County. 


Subtle references to the 19th Century logging railroad were important to the College as a way to put a unique face on their new campus center and serve as a local gateway to higher education in a remote area.



Loose pencil sketches hint at an informal design process which was focused on creating a “place” with personality that students could call their own.

Covered walkways leading up to and surrounding the outdoor courtyard recall both the covered platform of traditional railroad stations, and the front porch of pioneering ranchers that settled the area.


The Learning Resource Center wears several hats, and does so with limited staff, who man a central hub where rolling doors reminiscent of railroad car openings signal when they are open for business.


Classroom activities often spill out into the outdoor courtyard where students gather at seating pods fashioned from old railroad ties. Studying intermingles with social times in shaded areas and at outdoor tables where students make the campus their own.


The high ceiling Learning Center at the Mendocino College North County Center glows at night behind low slung and linear landscaping along the street and announces its availability to community groups for evening activities. Willits’ identity as “a small town with a big personality” now reflects their commitment to further education and community support!


North Bay Business Journal Top Educational Project 2014


Client: Mendocino-Lake Community College District

Size: 6,600

Budget: $4.2 M

Completion: 2013