January 18, 2008
by Canadian Architect
Steven Holl Architects has been selected to design the first academic buildings for the new arts and transit neighbourhood at Princeton University. The project includes buildings for the Program in Theater and Dance, components of the Department of Music, the Lewis Center for the Arts and the Society of Fellows in the Creative and Performing Arts. Encompassing an estimated 135,000 gross square feet, the preliminary plans include a black box theatre, a large dance studio, an orchestral rehearsal studio, several smaller acting studios, dance studios, music practice rooms, classrooms, support spaces, a caf and offices.
Steven Holl Architects was hired by Princeton because of the firm’s extensive experience designing buildings for the arts, including the recently completed expansion and renovation of the Nelson-Atkins Museum in Kansas City, MO, and for its strength in using complicated programs as the basis for excellent architecture using light to open up spaces. Mark Burstein, executive vice president Princeton University, stated: ‘We were looking for an architect who thrives on a complex program, and not only having a plan support that program but also having the buildings connect the programs together almost integrate the programs spatially.”
The new arts and transit neighbourhood is located at the intersection of Alexander Street and University Place. The area, already home to the McCarter Theatre Center’s Matthews and Berlind theaters, is considered an ideal location for various facilities the University needs to meet the goals of the creative and performing arts initiative announced by President Shirley M. Tilghman in January 2006. Other arts facilities proposed, for which different architects will be named, are an experimental media studio and a satellite for the Princeton University Art Museum.
Steven Holl Architects, currently developing the design for the arts buildings, envisions a new architecture which might act as an instrument to bring different disciplines together. Steven Hollstates: “Princeton University’s campus environment presents unique challenges and opportunities for architecture to act as a social condenser. Unforeseen potential experiments by students and faculty for creative and performing arts might take place out of doors, partially on balconies or roofs as described in a passage on Naples by Walter Benjamin: ‘Porosity results from the passion for improvisation, which demands that space and opportunity be at any price preserved.'”
Steven Holl Architects has extensive experience with campus and educational facilities. A campus offers the promise of learning as a lifelong and shared process, one in which the interaction between scholars and students and their community enlivens the pursuit of knowledge; and it plays a dual role in an urban context in that certain elements. Among the successfully realized campus projects by Steven Holl Architects are the School of Art & Art History at the University of Iowa (Iowa City), Simmons Hall at MIT (Cambridge), the School of Architecture & Landscape Architecture at the University of Minnesota (Minneapolis), the Cranbrook Institute of Science, (Bloomfield Hills), and the Chapel of St. Ignatius at Seattle University (Seattle).