for Student Arts Center
50,000-square-foot Multi-purpose Center
Scheduled for Fall 2000 Opening
The event coincides with several major university events, including the regularly scheduled board of trustees meeting, the annual Alumni Council meeting and the annual Associates dinner, which celebrates the many friends who have contributed to the Johns Hopkins Initiative campaign.
The 50,000-square-foot, $17 million student center is scheduled to open in the fall of 2000 as a multifunctional facility, offering rehearsal, meeting, studio and gathering space for Homewood student groups. It also will house performance space and a theater for events open to both Hopkins students and the general public. Site work is scheduled to begin in December 1998.
"For a long time, Hopkins has sorely lacked the facilities to adequately support a strong and vibrant student life, says dean of Homewood student affairs Larry Benedict. At the same time, our competitors either have such facilities or are in the planning stages for them. This new student arts center, along with a planned new recreation center and an interfaith and community service center, are facilities our students need and deserve, and the entire community will benefit from having them on our campus.
"Our student body has grown tremendously in the past decade," he says, "and our current buildings are stretched to the limit. In the last five years, we've gone from 70 to170 student groups active on campus. Levering Hall [the Homewood campus student union] is booked all day, every day. The trustees understand the need for this building and have been very supportive of our efforts."
The student arts center is designed as three distinctive wings that will form an open triangle on the wooded knoll at the end of 33rd Street. It will be bordered on the west by Whitehead Hall, on the east by Charles Street, to the north by the Merrick Barn (home of Theatre Hopkins) and to the south by the Baltimore Museum of Art s Levi Sculpture Garden. Nestled within the center s wings, a sheltered plaza will incorporate terraces and stairways facing the southern sun, while the perimeter of the building will blend into the wooded landscape.
"The site was selected because it is most convenient to students living on campus as well as in the community, and it provides what we think will be a very welcoming entranceway to the campus for our neighbors, says Steve Campbell, interim executive director of the university's Office of Facilities Management.
Campbell and members of the university community have worked hard with the architects to create a design for the much-needed center. He also has consulted with members of the Charles Village neighborhood and the Baltimore City Planning Commission, incorporating many of their ideas for creating a functional space while preserving much of the existing site s wooded charm.
We have been very up front with the fact that a lot of the trees that are now on this spot will have to come down to make way for the arts center, Campbell says. And we have been just as aggressive in developing a plan to limit unnecessary cutting and to create new plantings.
The university has hired The Care of Trees, a consulting firm specializing in tree preservation services. Their registered forester is working with the design and construction team to evaluate the condition of the existing trees, recommend and implement pre-construction tree maintenance and develop a final tree preservation plan to be followed during construction.
A certified arborist will then implement this plan, taking care to protect the trees that will remain, such as a large American Beech that will be a focus of the landscaping.
The function and location of the arts center will combine to make it a signature building on the Homewood campus. Recognizing this, university administrators sponsored a design competition in which selected firms from around the world were invited to participate. Hopkins awarded the design contract to the New York-based architectural firm of Tod Williams, Billie Tsien and Associates in June 1997.
"This is the first design competition in my experience," says Campbell, who has been with the university in various capacities for 10 years. "We did this as a means of getting the best possible design ideas for this site. Besides being a wonderful building, it also was the one design that used less of the wooded knoll that was potentially available for the center.
The center's greatest challenge is to accommodate all the varied demands simultaneously, creating an environment that is open to novelty and innovation, yet conducive to the discipline and sense of seriousness art-making requires. The trick was not to let the building stand in the way of the events meant to occur within it.
"One of the things that happened in the modern architecture movement is that buildings became objects," says architect Billie Tsien, who with husband Tod Williams has made their medium-sized firm one of the most talked-about architectural studios in the nation.
"We are from that modern tradition--I like to say we're modernist architects--but we try not to let the buildings we create stand as objects. We want the student arts center to be an extension of the hill and blend into the site rather than overpower it."
The buildings will rise from the hill organically, with lower levels constructed of brick with slate sills and coping meant to reflect the prevailing architectural language of the Homewood campus. The two upper levels will speak a more modernist vocabulary in glass and steel. Two wings of the center--one facing Charles Street and the other on the service road that surrounds Whitehead Hall--will be built over broad pedestrian throughways so students hurrying to class and visitors coming in from Charles Street can enter the campus without going inside the building.
The upper levels of the buildings are to be a mixture of clear, textured, translucent and opaque glass panels so the arts center will become not just a gateway, but a beacon to the Homewood campus.
"I would love it if this building could become a container of life and light," Tsien says. "It's situated in a dark part of the campus--at least a part that is dark at night-- and part of our use of the landscape is to create a lantern filled with light and life at night. We envision the students there at all hours in an atmosphere that is alive with movement and energy."
This is Tod Williams, Billie Tsien and Associates first student arts center (and their first project in Maryland), and they were ideally suited for the project. The firm gained national prominence for its design of the Neurosciences Institute, a campus-like building built for Nobel Prize-winning researcher Gerald Edelman within the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, Calif. What particularly drew attention to the Neurosciences Institute is the way that building encourages scientists and researchers in different disciplines to interact and share their ideas.
Cross-pollination and serendipitous collaboration are no less important in the arts, says Tsien, who believes the Hopkins arts center will encourage a free flow of creative energy.
According to Dean Benedict, 13 different independent reports, including the university's most recent reaccreditation review, have pointed out the need for additional facilities of this kind.
"We conducted a number of focus groups with the students, and most of the things they felt were lacking on campus were arts-related, such as performance spaces and rehearsal rooms," he says. "I think the whole concept the architects have come up with is just terrific. It's a very sensitive and creative response to our needs."
The students are very favorable to the building and its design. The problem is, most of us can t wait until September 2000 when the building opens, says Student Council president Zachary Pack. Student input has played a large role throughout the entire process. We really appreciate the deans and administration for valuing our role in that and staying focused on the idea that this building is being built for student life.
We ve needed this building for a long time. Now we can unify campus life around one major building, one place that has a space for all the different student groups. What I like best is the open wall idea, where there are a lot of open meeting spaces and conference rooms. I think it encourages students to get togther and discuss things, he says.
Fund raising for the new center continues. Currently, $14.5 million has been raised, $2 million of which was raised by a group of trustees to honor vice president and board of trustees secretary Ross Jones, who retired on June 30 after 37 years of service to Hopkins. The student arts center is part of more than $160 million in construction and renovation now under way throughout the Hopkins system.
PRODUCERS/EDITORS/WRITERS: For information on the day of the event, page Steve Libowitz at 410-512-7962.
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