Predock's Flexible Arts Center Suits College's Boundary-Breaking Style
A biologist, musician, and a playwright enter a classroom: this isn’t the setup for a joke, but rather the essential pedagogy of Colorado College. This small liberal arts school, located in Colorado Springs, operates on a so-called block plan, in which students enroll in just one course every three-and-a-half weeks. The classes are interdisciplinary and intense, taught by a tag team of three or four professors from different departments and culminating in a final project that weaves all their subjects together.
The college’s forthcoming Cornerstone Arts Center, the first building to unify all arts programs under one roof, manifests its teaching philosophy in the form of highly flexible architecture. The $33 million, 73,300-square-foot structure was conceived in 1996, when faculty attended a dance-mystery-improv performance created by students representing a wide range of majors in the liberal arts and performance. Two years later, Colorado College retained Antoine Predock, FAIA, to create a space that would spark further collaborations.
Predock’s design broke ground in May 2006. Located within sight of Colorado’s famed Pikes Peak, the predominantly copper-clad structure appears as a geologically inspired pyramid shape that narrows toward the northern part of the site; smaller rectilinear volumes containing classrooms, a black box theater, and a collaborative gallery emerge from the copper shell at this northern end, stepping down toward the grade.
To accommodate a range of arts, the interior’s highlights include a 433-seat auditorium, sound stage, and screening room, although every room can sustain at least three functions. The central atrium, for example, features amphitheater seating and is ringed by a catwalk that can be turned over to fine arts exhibitions. Classrooms and offices are equally suited to history seminars or dance troupes, thanks to easily reconfigurable partitions and a technological infrastructure that professors and visiting artists can adapt to their varying needs.
The Cornerstone Art Center is due to open this October, a little more than a year after Denver-based Tryba Architects completed an expansion to the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center, which is located just across the street.