Encouraging lively interaction among students

06 Sep 2012

The Wolfe Center has a unique programme that unites a diverse range of art studies into a socially enterprising facility

The Wolfe Center for the Collaborative Arts is a landmark facility on the campus of Bowling Green State University serving students, faculty and the community. The new building contains classrooms as well as production and studio spaces to link students and faculty in the School of Arts, the Department of Theatre and Film, and the College of Musical Arts. The Wolfe Center has a unique programme that unites a diverse range of art studies into a socially enterprising facility meant to encourage lively interaction among students and faculty.

Design Approach, Functionality, Community Context

The building includes three performance spaces: a 400-seat proscenium theatre that will provide space for large-scale productions of musical theatre, opera, and classical drama; a studio theatre for the presentation of more diverse artistic programs, including theatre for young audiences and productions of new plays; and an actor's theatre to provide space for experimental productions integrating the spoken word and body movement with digital and sound technology.

Snøhetta has created a grand open hall that greets the visitor from the main entrance. Sunlit and spacious, the lobby provides views upward to the lounges, classrooms and studios of the art music, and drama department on the second level. Throughout the building and the landscape, informal gathering areas-including a monumental staircase with roman seating in the grand hall, and the sloped berm that "clads" the eastern portion of the building as it emerges from the landscape-provide much-needed flexible and multi-use spaces that allow students, instructors and visitors to interact and collaborate more freely and with greater spontaneity.

Situated at the heart of the building, the proscenium theatre can be used for a variety of performance programs. It is designed in the style of the great Broadway halls of New York City and London. To meet the highest contemporary criteria for a theatre of this kind, Snøhetta worked in close collaboration with two internationally recognized theatre planners, Theatre Project Consultants and Akustiks. Innovation The landscape design of the Wolfe Center for the Arts ties the new building to the existing campus, allowing for flexible public spaces, a strengthening of the campus green space and a frame for the new arts centre. The building features a walk-through that connects the visual arts campus to the performing arts campus, inspiring creativity across the disciplines. The walk-through also provides windows and views into rehearsal spaces and backstage areas that are normally not afforded, increasing visibility of the activities within the building and engaging passers-by in the creative process.

Performance/Quality, Sustainable Design Features

The vast agrarian plains of northwestern Ohio, the gently meandering rivers flowing northward toward the great lakes, and the unbroken horizons across the landscape of fields and farms allow for a unique contextual framework for the Wolfe Center. Nearly 20,000 years ago glacier shelves scoured this landscape and on their retreat northward the ice left vast deposits of rich soils and uncovered geology.

The new Wolfe Center creates a memorable link between the vast openness of the ancient plateaus and the dynamic and contemporary notion of fostering openness between the arts. The berm is planted with turf grass identical to the grass which grows elsewhere on campus. A roof terrace will provide an outdoor space for gathering, eating, sitting, and studying. Wood planters with native grasses will provide a pleasant seating environment. The building was designed according to sustainable practices and has achieved LEED Silver certification.

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