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State-of-the-Art Performing Arts Facility Born Out of Historic High School

State-of-the-Art Performing Arts Facility Born Out of Historic High School

A Case Study of Colorado State University’s New University Center for the Arts
Review by Clare Vogel

DesignShare and Fielding Nair International co-founders, Randy Fielding and Prakash Nair, have created a language of their own over the years of practicing innovative school architecture. They currently use a vocabulary of more than 30 patterns in their work, finding ways to implement their patterns in any number of cultural settings. This pattern language is typically used to describe K-12 school settings with smaller learning communities. In October 2008, SLATERPAULL Architects completed the 330,000-square-foot, $45M University Center for the Arts (UCA) at Colorado State University (CSU) in Fort Collins, Colorado. The university’s new center was born out of Fort Collins High School, originally built in 1924, and embraces several patterns and processes that Fielding and Nair’s firm seek to both promote, and share, with designers of educational facilities worldwide.

Art, Music, Performance

DesignShare considers facilities for art, music and performance to be a critical component in 21st century schools. With the growing awareness of how the brain works and the ability to integrate multiple-intelligences theory more fully into the learning experience, it is now evidence that the arts are part of, and not separate from the other disciplines. UCA was built in three phases over several years:

  • Phase I: Edna Rizley Griffin Concert Hall
    A 550-seat concert hall providing performance spaces for music, theater, and dance that honors the historical character of the existing building.
  • Phase II: The Bohemian Complex
    A retrofit of the former Fort Collins High School gymnasium, which includes the 318-seat University Theatre, 100-seat Studio Theatre, 2,400-square-foot William Runyon Music Hall, and another 4,500 square feet of production shops, dressing room, green room, audio-visual equipment rooms and supporting spaces.
  • Phase III: Recital Hall
    Phase 3 completes the University Center for the Arts project and includes the renovation and adaptive reuse of the majority of High School. This phase includes a recital hall; dance studio theatre; the department of music, theatre and dance’s academic spaces; practice rooms and studios; teaching labs; and faculty and the internationally-known “Center for BioMedical Research in Music.”
  • School as a Three-Dimensional Textbook

    As sustainability becomes the way of the world, architects are not only finding new and innovative ways to build “green,” but are turning to educators to use these buildings as teaching tools themselves. In a school setting, sustainable elements and building as a 3-D textbook become an excellent means of teaching about acoustics, sound technology, engineering and harmony with the environment. Preservation and sustainable design techniques include:

    • Hardwood flooring from the original gymnasium was refurbished and reused
    • Limestone building fragments salvaged from the original facade are featured in the lobby
    • Columns inspired by the historic building have been added on the exterior of the addition and used inside the interior lobby
    • Clerestory windows from the original gymnasium bring abundant natural daylight into the new space
    • Restoration of the existing 1924 and 1954 historic masonry facades included cleaning the existing brick and stone, replacing damaged brick, repointing the existing masonry as necessary, restoring the existing wood and stucco cupola and a historic exterior window and door replacement
    • 10,000 lbs. of building material such as steel, copper and aluminum were recycled during the renovation and construction process

    Dispersed Technology

    For creative students in the arts in particular, technology is almost an extension of themselves. They use it to communicate, to discover the world, to collaborate, to create and to organize their lives. Along with the performance venues, UCA houses eleven classroom and seminar rooms, a design studio, digital lab, lighting lab and sound/video booth, composition and piano labs, and the largest instrumental rehearsal hall in Colorado (194,500 cubic feet). Theater students now have constant access to ensemble and performance libraries, two acting labs, a Computer-Aided Design (CAD) lab, costume and scenic shops and storage. Dancers have three studios totaling more than 6,500 square feet, 36 soundproof rehearsal rooms, as well as teaching studios, offices and support spaces. It is also home to the research facilities of the Center for Biomedical Research in Music – one of the world’s leading centers in brain research in music perception and neurorehabilitation.
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    What is DesignShare? DesignShare is the central address for the very best in educational facilities and their impact on the learning process. DesignShare provides an invaluable service as a facilitator of ideas and resources about best practices and innovation in schools from early childhood through the university level. Who is DesignShare’s audience? DesignShare reaches a truly global community of professionals. More than 150,000 architects, planners, educators, and facility decision makers visit the site each month. Architects who specify products for schools and universities make up over half of DesignShare’s total readership. Who are our sponsors?
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