Ayers Saint Gross completes innovative new School of Art building at George Mason University
The design of the 88,990 sq ft building is intended to provide flexibility to accommodate changes in teaching methods and curriculum. The building includes administrative and faculty spaces, a gallery, general and art education classrooms and academic and studio spaces for painting / drawing, inter-arts, digital arts, graphic design, sculpture, photography and printmaking.
A 75-seat lecture hall consumes the entry level. The architects envisioned the building as a piece of art, but at the same time an opportunity for art to emerge. Every surface was considered an opportunity, both internal and external. The northwest stair which is lightly attached to the masonry has a gridded frame of metal using wire mesh which will allow large canvases, a projection screen, or even installation art to be attached to its face. There is an exterior projection connection located on the underside of one of the elevated landings of this stair to allow projections to be thrown onto the curved zinc wall as it emerges from the building to the west. Even the colour of the brick underwent significant scrutiny to determine a brick that would relate in part to the campus environs but would also serve as a background colour for sculpture to be seen against.
The typical corridors throughout were lit in a way that evenly distributes light throughout making every surface an informal opportunity for pinups or display - which was already evident at their ribbon cutting ceremony where students plastered the corridors with their work. The central stair and adjacent vertical wall is also already being used to display significant works by students in interesting, idiosyncratic locations. In the end, the goal was to design a building which would not limit the kinds of art and collaboration, but would rather act as a point of departure, a canvas unto itself.