1. Click image to expand

    REX has designed Brown University's performing arts centre. Picture: Luxigon

  2. Click image to expand

    REX has designed Brown University's performing arts centre. Picture: Luxigon

  3. Click image to expand

    REX has designed Brown University's performing arts centre. Picture: Luxigon

  4. Click image to expand

    REX has designed Brown University's performing arts centre. Picture: Luxigon

  5. Click image to expand

    REX has designed Brown University's performing arts centre. Picture: Luxigon

  6. Click image to expand

    REX has designed Brown University's performing arts centre. Picture: REX

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Ivy League school unveils arts center design

Magda Ibrahim
Monday 25 Mar 2019

Brown University in the US has unveiled the design concept for its new performing arts center.

New York-based architecture firm REX has designed the new performing arts center (PAC) for Brown University on behalf of Brown Arts Initiative, which will program the facility once it opens in 2022. 

REX has designed this academic and cultural building to be technologically sophisticated, highly flexible and adaptable to multiple art forms, yet intimate in scale and feel. 

The renderings reveal plans for a state-of-the-art main performance hall that can transform into any of five vastly different stage/audience configurations — ranging from a 625-seat symphony orchestra hall, to a 250-seat proscenium theater, to an immersive surround-sound cube for experimental media performance. 

Beyond the main hall, a suite of modern studios, rehearsal spaces and intimate performance venues will serve as everyday academic resources for students and faculty. 

Custom-designed for theater, music and dance, the spaces aim to inspire generations of performing artists to create cutting-edge, original artwork and re-examine well-known works, practices and traditions. 

Brown unveiled initial plans for the PAC in 2017 after launching the Brown Arts Initiative (BAI), a campus-wide effort to make the University a vibrant laboratory for inventive arts practice and scholarship. 

On its striking exterior, the building will be shrink-wrapped in an extruded aluminum rainscreen, composed of fractal-like fluted geometry. 

Intersecting the vertical flutes, the 13-foot horizontal clearstory slices through the building, revealing the interior of the main floor, including the main performance hall, to passers by in every direction. 

Technology will be state of the art, including professional touring-grade amplification, multi-channel ambisonic audio, immersive video projection, scenic projection and a full complement of fixed lighting.

Interior glass walls will allow visibility through the main performance hall, the lobby and promenade, though light can be blocked by blackout drapes as required. 

The PAC’s lower floors will also house a percussion studio and an array of small practice rooms and dressing rooms, along with space for event support, administrative offices and meetings. 

Joshua Ramus, founder and principal of REX, said: “The project’s ambitions were defined through ‘dreaming sessions:’ rigorous interviews, workshops and precedent tours with the Brown Arts Initiative, its arts departments, facilities staff, and student-led performing arts groups.

These conversations coalesced into the invention of a ‘new animal,’ a uniquely malleable yet exacting arts typology where performance is not the final product, but another piece of vital research in the creation — and pedagogy — of groundbreaking art and arts leaders.

Joshua Ramus, founder and principal of REX 

The PAC — fully accessible to those with disabilities — will be open for gatherings before and after performances in the main hall, with the lobby designed also to accommodate events and functions. 

Longtime Brown supporters Diana Nelson and John Atwater made a $20 million gift to the University in November 2018 to create the lobby as a central convening space. Support from other generous donors has been essential in enabling the project to advance, and a fundraising campaign for the PAC remains active.

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