Mixing education and the arts

11 Apr 2012

Students move into Logan Center for the Arts

A close relationship between the arts and education is what Tod William Billie Tsien Architects (TWBTA) envisioned in designing a new arts center at the University of Chicago. That building, the Logan Center for the Arts, is now taking shape on the University of Chicago’s campus. Students are moving in Monday. But the official opening is in October, that’s when the Logan Center’s experimental program will get a true test and the public will learn if the building will become a catalyst for the performing and fine arts in the city.

For now it’s just another beautiful building by this New York firm, which raises construction materials to a high art through careful selection and detailing of materials that bring a building to life and makes you want to touch it. That was certainly case with the American Folk Art Museum, in New York, the little jewel box of a building that TWBTA designed that sadly recently closed due to financial troubles. This building too, holds a similar promise and is already getting rave reviews.

Fresh off the hardhat tour last week, The Chicago Tribune critic Howard Reich said: “Nothing quite like it has ever risen in the Chicago area”. You can see the potential for arts activity in practically every corner”. With 184,000 sq ft spread across the 11-storey tower, there are indeed a lot corners to fill. The robust program provides for a mix of classrooms, performing arts spaces, an art gallery, rehearsal rooms and a movie theatre. Highlights include a top of tower Performance Penthouse, for intimate performances, like jazz performances and poetry readings; a 150-seat black box theatre; a 474-seat performance hall and a 105-fixed seat theatre. There is also a courtyard for outdoor performances.

Williams and Tsein call it a ‘mixing bowl’ approach to culture and learning. When asked why mix the arts and classroom spaces, Bill Michael, the new Center’s director, said: “The University of Chicago is known for its ability to support individual disciplines but then do really interesting work at the intersection of those disciplines. It's at the heart of our college…and it permeates the artistic work here as well. This is really an opportunity for us to do something distinctive and unique - that we're not just bringing (various) arts under one roof but designing a building to help them interact and mix in new ways."

Schuler Shook Theatre Planners composed the feasibility study for this project and oversaw the planning.

Sharon McHugh
US Correspondent

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