On-campus performing arts centers and museums can attract talent from universities

About a decade ago, Voith & Mactavish Architects carried out numerous designs for performing arts centers for independent secondary and preparatory schools. “In some ways, higher education is now catching up” with student expectations, says VMA founding partner and design director Daniela Voith of recent culture-related projects her company has done for universities and colleges. .

A recent example was the $60 million, 84,000 square foot John and Joan Mullen Center for the Performing Arts at Villanova University in Pennsylvania. The LEED Silver-certified building, which was completed in the spring of 2020, is part of a major fundraising campaign to redevelop the south area of ​​campus. The center includes two theatres, with 400 and 200 seats respectively, and a 75-seat laboratory. VMA collaborated with Robert AM Stern Architects on the design of the art center. Bala Engineering, O’Donnell & Naccarato and Nave Newell were the project engineers, and LF Driscoll provided construction management. The General Building Contractors Association awarded its 2020 Best Cultural Institution Project Award to this arts center.

The building’s outdoor space, called West Porch, will be used for classrooms, exhibits and film screenings. Courtesy of Diller Scofidio + Renfro.

Voith is not alone in believing that there is a renewed recognition among universities that art and creativity “are an integral part of what makes America successful”. She also believes that new and renovated arts centers can be weapons in the “arms race” led by universities and colleges raising their facilities and equipment to cutting-edge levels to attract and retain students and colleges. teachers.

It could also be a coincidence, but several high-profile art projects are in various stages of development or completion at a time when college enrollment in the United States in 2021 has fallen for the second straight year, according to reports. recent data from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, which estimates enrollment is down 6.5% from pre-pandemic levels.

Integrating Arts and Education into Higher Education

Brown University PAC rendering
Brown University’s under-construction performing arts center is in line with the university’s mission to provide integrated scholarship. The building will include a large outdoor area (right) for teaching and social gatherings. Courtesy ©LUXIGON

In December, Princeton University in New Jersey — which, truthfully, has no trouble attracting student applicants — began construction on its new art museum, which, at 144,000 square feet, doubles the size of the museum it replaces. Designed by Adjaye Associates in collaboration with Cooper Robertson, the three-story Princeton University Art Museum will be a grid of nine pavilions showcasing selections from the museum’s vast and growing collection of more than 112,000 objects. The building will also house Princeton’s Department of Art and Archeology and the Marquand Library. James Corner Field Operations is the landscape architect for the project and LF Driscoll provided pre-construction services. The museum is expected to be completed in 2024. In the meantime, the museum will operate two gallery spaces in downtown Princeton and plans two outdoor exhibition spaces.

The same month, on December 10, a construction team led by construction management firm Shawmut Design and Construction and architectural firm REX, celebrated a virtual crowning glory of the 94,000 square foot performing arts center. from Brown University, which is expected to be completed in the spring. of 2023, and uses an integrated project delivery that integrates contractors and the university in all phases of the project.

The vision of this PAC supports Brown’s ten-year strategic plan, Building on Distinction: A New Plan for Brown (2013), which commits the university to integrative scholarship, educational leadership, academic excellence, and the development of campus. “Brown is committed to fully integrating the arts into a comprehensive liberal arts education,” the university states on its website. “We know that tackling some of the world’s toughest challenges benefits from the creative problem solving made possible by people who have studied and experienced the arts.”

The Performing Arts Center will anchor a future arts district on Brown’s campus in Providence, RI. Its main performance hall will feature five radically different predefined spatial, acoustic and technical configurations, from a 625-seat symphony orchestra to a 250-seat proscenium theatre; as well as three smaller performance and rehearsal spaces below street level where students and faculty can create collaborative artwork. The building’s exterior aluminum rainscreen will appear to change color and pattern with the time of day and seasonal changes.

The performing arts center project should obtain at least LEED silver certification. (Brown’s stated policy is not to release cost information until a project is complete.)

Recall the past, without the obsolescence

Brown Arts Initiative
The PAC main performance hall will feature five radically different predefined spatial, acoustic and technical configurations. The property can also accommodate banquets and conference meetings. Courtesy of ©LUXIGON.

Another arts education project that has caught the eye is Diller Scofidio + Renfro’s (DS+R) design for Susan and Fayez Sarofim Hall, a $25 million, 50,000 square foot building for students. in Visual and Dramatic Arts, located on the Houston campus of Rice University. Sarofim Hall, slated to open this year and complete in 2024, will add to Rice’s already vibrant cultural district that includes the Moody Center for the Arts (which opened in 2017), the newly constructed Brockman Hall for Opera and Shepherd Hall Alice Pratt Brown of the School of Music.

Rice’s visual and dramatic arts department is one of the most popular at the university, with 900 students per year.

“Interdisciplinary discourse is a hallmark of the arts in the 21st century, but it has been difficult for Rice because his facilities are scattered across campus,” observes Charles Renfro, associate at DS+R and a Rice graduate. “Sarofim Hall will not only bring these programs together for the first time, but will also facilitate experimentation and collaboration across disciplines through an open, transparent, indoor/outdoor space open to the public.”

DS+R’s design is reminiscent of the campus’ now defunct Art Barn and Rice Media Center, which date back to the late 1960s, and the mass-produced pre-engineered metal structures that were popular after World War II. . (Art Barn, which was officially known as the Institute of the Arts, was demolished in 2014, and the Media Center is being razed to make way for Sarofim Hall.)

The pre-engineered Sarofim Hall will include exhibition spaces, labs, studios, stores, faculty offices and other collaborative spaces for artists across all media. The design of the building liberates the metal framework from its skin and blurs the boundaries between manufacturing and exhibition spaces.

The studios and facilities are designed to guard against obsolescence by encouraging students to shape their workspaces according to their artistic needs. “The building envelope is seen as infrastructure: simple, durable and timeless, while the interior can transform as needs change,” Renfro said.

Distinctive features of Sarofim Hall include Art Street, a glazed walkway that diagonally crosses the four-story building and will serve as the new entrance to the university; and West Porch, a covered outdoor space for programs such as classes, exhibits, and film screenings.

“DS+R’s initial concept for the new building cleverly weaves the symbolism of this story with the scale, materiality and ‘porosity’ of the wider campus fabric,” adds university architect George Ristow. “With the building being perimeter-facing outward – and at an entrance to the campus that has become one of the busiest and most dynamic access points – it will no doubt have a different kind of visibility from above. beyond the hedges which will be exploited as a new and unique gateway to the Rice Arts Corridor.

The Sarofim Hall project team includes Jackson & Ryan Architects (executive architect), OJB Landscape Architecture (LA), Fisher Dachs Associates (theater consultant), Threshold (acoustics/AV), Martinez Moore (SE), Walter P Moore (CE), and Wylie Associates (MEP). The university has not identified the construction manager or general contractor for the project.