Cultural Centers: Music, Theater, Dance, and Visual Arts

May 21, 2013 | Clifford V. Gayley, FAIA + William L. Rawn, FAIA | Cultural + Civic Realm


New buildings are connecting the arts to campuses in ways that have not been done before, reinforcing the crucial role that the performing and visual arts play in a broader liberal arts education. This is being done in two fundamental ways:

1. Teaching innovation, creativity, and risk taking. In academic settings, arts spaces are critical to fostering the spirit of innovation and risk taking that is at the core of the liberal arts.

At Stanford University, the Arts Initiative acknowledges that “imagination, originality, and risk‐taking should not be byproducts of a university education. They should be its core” (Jonathan Berg-er
and Bryan Wolf, Faculty Leaders of the Arts Initiative). Campus facilities for the performing and visual arts help develop “learners who are fearless and unafraid of new ideas and new concepts; learners who are unafraid of questioning ‘conventional wisdom.’” (Barry Mills, President of Bowdoin College).

2. Engaging the broader community. A center for the arts is an important platform for intellectual debate and innovation on a college or university campus—a venue not only for arts instruction but also for
events that propel public discourse on campus and in the broader community.

"A great university should both integrate the arts into its intellectual and social life and contribute to the artistic creativity in the broader world” (Lee C. Bollinger, President of Columbia University). Campus arts facilities stand as prominent public symbols of an institution’s commitment to the arts, “ensuring that the arts continue to play a preeminent role not only in student life, but also in shaping the cultural landscape in this country and internationally” (Richard C. Levin, President of Yale University).

Many colleges and universities can point to a traditional core of moderately scaled academic and residential buildings that form the physical and symbolic heart of their institution. Over time, several types of campus
buildings have developed a large size that poses a challenge to this traditional sense of campus: major libraries, science complexes, and athletic buildings. Following current trends, a fourth building type might be
added: the performing and visual arts center. Sensitive design of these buildings is important not only to the success of the building but also to the character and function of the broader campus. The growing opportunities
for arts buildings bring with them important challenges for the fabric of a campus, mainly the issues of size and scale.

Through an examination of key design issues and opportunities, this chapter explores how the design of arts centers can foster innovation and generate powerful community connections.

Clifford Gayley and Bill Rawn's essay "Cultural Centers - Music, Theater, Dance and Visual Arts" explores in depth the links between pedagogy and the broader community in academic arts centers on college and university campuses. This essay was originally published as a book chapter in Building Type Basics for College and University Facilities, 2nd Edition, by former UVA, Stanford, and UC-Irvine campus architect, David Neuman, FAIA.

A copy of Neuman's full book (©2013 Wiley Publishing) can be purchased at the link below.

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