The Dual School
Three Ohio firms learn the meaning of responsive architecture when a sudden site change sends them back to the drawing board.
Mark McMenamin -- Interior Design, 11/19/2007 12:00:00 AM
We accept that change is a normal part of living, but it certainly can have lousy timing. Like when designers finish brainstorming, finalize a concept, polish off the renderings, set the specs, and then the call comes. "By the way, do you have a Plan B?"
Moody Nolan, the architecture, civil engineering and interior design firm in Columbus, received such a call. So did Cole + Russell in Cincinnati, and Fanning/Howey in Celina. The Ohio-based firms had collaborated on the design of a new campus for The School for the Creative and Performing Arts in Cincinnati, with Moody Nolan as lead architect. More than just a new building, the 250,000-square-foot facility was commissioned to turn the school, currently limited to grades 4-12, into the nation's first K-12 public school for the arts.
The city and its public schools board responded enthusiastically to the design. The National Organization of Minority Architects even named Moody Nolan as an Honor Award Winner for the yet-to-be realized concept. But the city had one mid-stream revision for the firms: Relocate the site, from smack-dab in the middle of the city's historic Over-the-Rhine district, to its very edge, facing the downtown north business core.
For most projects, such relocation simply means changes in scale or size, and perhaps a few minor design modifications. But Moody Nolan sensed that a more dramatic rethinking was in order.
The original concept was almost a mirror image of the architecture in Over-the-Rhine, a neighborhood of three- to five-story, 19th century homes, stylistically linked by redbrick facades and Germanic overtones. Similarly, Moody Nolan allowed redbrick to completely dominate its design of the new SCPA's five-story façade, the brick extending from a dramatically elevated exterior cloister.
Prompted by the site shift, the firm saw an opportunity to echo the more energetic and contemporary business district facing the south edge of the area, while still retaining a connection to the historic area to its north. So, while the north-facing façade will continue to pay homage to heritage through its redbrick skin, the south side has been completely reconceived and contemporized. Serving as the entrance to the school's 750-seat theater, the wing will be clad in stainless steel shingles and zinc panels. A truncated cone houses the box office, adjoined by a light towers.
The result is something that might be described as dual-personality design, though Moody Nolan prefers to think of it as responsive architecture: A building that evolves not only to fit its environment, but also the needs of the people it serves.
The new SCPA broke ground in September, and is expected to officially open during the 2008-2009 school year. Until then, you can check for virtual updates via the live construction cam, or make an online donation to help defray costs of the $72 million project, at thenewscpa.org. For more information on Moody Nolan, go to moodynolan.com.