St. Louis, Missouri


Rarely does an architect get the chance to add significantly to, much less transform, work done decades before. For the Japanese architect Fumihiko Maki, the potential for a new arts center at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, brought him back to the campus where he had taught and designed his first project, over 40 years ago. The Sam Fox Arts Center, situated at the southeastern border of the 13,500-student campus, tested Maki’s powers of urban and collegiate planning over the nine-year period of its gestation. Opened in 2006, the center’s two primary buildings bring modernity to the red granite Collegiate Gothic campus while knitting together formerly disparate disciplines and three existing structures into a unified place.

Sam Fox School of Design and Visual Arts
Photography © Robert Pettus

The story begins with Steinberg Hall. Called as a teacher to the campus from Harvard University by former Dean Buford Pickens in 1958, young Maki, identified with the Japanese Metabolist movement, received a commission to design a new structure adjacent to the existing architecture building to house the art history and archaeology departments, an art gallery, an art and architecture library, and an auditorium.

Fast forward to 1997, when a committee under the tutelage of then-dean Cynthia Weese, FAIA, selected former faculty member Maki to conduct a study for a “visual arts center.” With strong support from the university’s chancellor, Maki faced an ambitious program that included a long list of needs: new gallery space with substantial supporting facilities; space for sculpture and ceramics and graphics; increased library facilities; and room for art history and archaeology, among other requirements. “We knew he would be able to successfully deal with extremely complex programmatic elements and campus design issues,” Weese said. “And we all felt that his clear and very serene modernist vocabulary would be compatible with the existing buildings.”

Simplicity should not be confused with lack of subtlety, however. The Sam Fox Arts Center, while marked with Maki’s characteristic restraint, achieves a pared-down dignity in the smallest details. If the galleries lack the formal exuberance of certain contemporary museums, they also embody and honor their purpose, that of a university museum, in a way that bespeaks confident self-knowledge. While Maki’s hallmark restraint may not engage the public with dramatic bravado, the flow and the ease of the interlaced composition will draw the crowds in, allowing easy interactions between art and the observer, between student and the whole campus. At the larger scale, the complex suggests how to complete the total campus through specific placemaking that allows for complementary expansion, adjacent to this complex and across the university’s entrance drive.


Fumihiko Maki & Maki and Associates
13 - 4 Hachiyama-cho, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo, Japan
Telephone: ++81. 3. 3780-3880, Telefax: ++81. 3. 3780-3881

Design Architect:
Maki and Associates
Fumihiko Maki, Principal
Gary Kamemoto, Director
Jun Takahashi, Kota Kawasaki, Hiromi Kouda, Ryuji Takaichi, Project Team

Architect of Record:
Shah Kawasaki Architects
Harish Shah, Alan Kawasaki
Manan Shah, Philip Luo, William Goryl, Mark Vinless, Angel Cantu, Jessica Boettcher, Joseph Ho, Ketki Thanawala, Harshila Amin

Structural Engineers:
Jacobs Facilities Inc.

MEP Engineers:
William Tao & Associates

Horton Lees Brogden Lighting Design

Signage & Graphics:
MGMT Design

Austin Tao & Associates

Civil Engineers:
Kuhlmann Design Group, Inc.

Code Consultants Inc.

General contractor:
McCarthy Construction

Robert Pettus (Telephone: 314. 968 - 8631)
Shinkenchiku (Telephone: ++81. 3. 3811 - 7102)
Maki and Associates (Telephone: ++81. 3. 3780 - 3880)

CAD System / Software:
AutoCAD, Vectorworks, FormZ




Exterior Cladding

Structural System:
Reinforced Concrete Flat Slab w/ Drop Panels, Steel Frame and Roof, CMU Walls

Exterior Cladding:
Indiana Limestone
Precast concrete wall panels, acid washed finish

Aluminum Curtain Wall:
Kawneer with custom snap cap PVDF Maki Silver

Extruded corrugated aluminum wall panels - custom profile PVDF Maki Silver

Window System: 
Kawneer Trifab

Elastomeric membrane roofing

Aluminum standing seam roof - PVDF Maki Silver

Supersky 450 System

Interior Finishes:

Integral color concrete acid washed finish
Maple strip wood flooring

Tile carpet - by C&A

Roll carpet - by Karastan

Exposed concrete stain finish

Linoleum Flooring - Marmoleum by Forbo

Interior Finsishes: Walls

Painted gypsum wall board

1" x 1" mosaic ceramic tile by Daltile

Fabric wall covering by Design Tex

Interior Finishes: Ceilings

Kawneer entrance doors

Glass sliding doors by Hufcor

Fire control doors by Adam Rite

Gallery sliding doors by Modernfold

Rolling overhead doors by Cookson

Lockset by Best

Hinges by Hager

Closers by LCN

Exit devices by von Duprin

Pulls by Rockwood

Cabinet harware by Soss

Gallery lighting - Parscan by ERCO

Exterior pole lighting - Hess America

Exterior step lights - Bega

Downlights by Lightolier

Long Elevators
Call buttons & fixtures by Innovation