Brick: Acme Brick Sunscreen: Beck Steel Glazing: Viracon extends up the building's three stories, providing an informal amphitheater and gallery/pinup space. This central zone is crossed by a web of catwalks, and stairs on tubular steel trusses that swoop like roller coasters. Scrims of steel cable net, resembling chain link, partially screen the area, not only defining a space within a space, but also producing moiré effects, animated by abundant daylight from the canyon's clerestory and end windows. Slender steel columns, supporting the slung steel net without reaching the ceiling, lean like casually planted wooden stakes, adding to the dynamism.
From the canyon, little remains hidden, with glass-fronted administration and art studios on the ground floor, offices on the second, and architecture studios at the top. The interior glazing invites views into work spaces, stimulating cross pollination. "Multipurpose 'piazzas' or social areas are where idea exchange really happens," says Rotondi. And because the "melody line"—long concrete floor slabs flanking the central zone—forms a quiet datum, the interior achieves balance, keeping the rhythmically charged circulation elements from becoming distracting or overwhelming. While Rotondi sees SCI-Arc's home as "neutral, enduring, and forgiving in its industrial nature" and Alvar Aalto's Helsinki architecture school as "intimidating in its perfection," he considers Prairie View a middleground: an architectural presence that is neither totally neutral nor overpowering.
Hardly intimidating, the "dancing" new building has inspired everyone, reports Dean Sabouni, to spend more time at school, a place they helped create. Certainly, the scheme emerged from an ongoing dialogue, a true give-and-take, between students and architect. But that was just the beginning: The degree candidates, actively engaging a new set of architects, are already vetting designs for the next three structures on campus. ■
Brick: Acme Brick Sunscreen: Beck Steel Glazing: Viracon
For more information on this project, go to Projects at www.archrecord.com.
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resemble cork. As a consultant, April Greiman oversaw the colors and finishes.
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