The program for the O’Brien Arts Center was to collect art and performance studios scattered throughout the campus – into a central location to give the arts a real presence at the School. However, at 44,000 square feet, this was to be the second-largest academic building at St. Andrew’s; among studios, classrooms, rehearsal spaces, and the recital hall, the building would contain three of the of the largest rooms ever built there. An error of scale would be destructive to the entire composition of the site.
We conceived the plan as a group of three distinctive St. Andrew’s-scale “buildings”, so close together that they functionally blend into one, sharing a stair hall/commons on each floor. But visually, one is never aware of more than two of the “buildings” at the same time; to keep them distinct from each other, the windows became a defining element.
For the large art and rehearsal studios, we used industrial sloped skylights; for the recital hall, a modern lead-coated copper envelope that could stand on its own with minimal openings. We used Crittall Steel Windows in the teaching/office wing to make a conscious reference to the steel casement windows used throughout the original Tudor-style campus, built of stone in 1929. This works nicely and makes a strong connection between the new and the old.
However, at the transition points between the traditional and modern wings, we were able to use the Crittall windows more freely, grouping them to show off their inherent taut elegance. We like this double-meaning, the true universality of the product, which actually seems to reinforce the timelessness of the original St Andrew’s steel casements in a surprising way.
This case study is based on architectural comment and submitted entry photography for recent entry in our Crittall Architectural Prize