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New Design and Media Center game changer for Massachusetts College of Art and Design
Design and Media Center exterior night © Richard Barnes.

NEW YORK, NY.- Massachusetts College of Art and Design welcomed a distinguished crowd including Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker to last week’s opening celebration of the new Design and Media Center designed by Susan T. Rodriguez/Ennead Architects. Heralded as an institutional game changer, the building establishes a new identity for MassArt and a welcoming threshold for the College along Boston’s “Avenue of the Arts,” connecting for the first time all of its adjacent buildings and providing greater accessibility to campus. The Center is designed not only to enhance the quality of collaborative teaching spaces for the College but also to reveal the vitality of the art and design community within, translating MassArt’s spirit of design innovation and aspirations for its cross-disciplinary curriculum into a four-story, state-of-the-art flexible system of studios, galleries and shared technical spaces. Ms. Rodriguez and management partner Don Weinreich led the Ennead design team.

“It is not every day that we have the opportunity to help create something that is truly transformational,” declared Caroll Gladstone, Commissioner of the Massachusetts Division of Capital Asset Management and Maintenance, at the ribbon-cutting ceremony. “It is easy to see how its presence on Huntington Avenue will help make Mass Art more visible, will show off the amazing work that happens here and give the school a true front door. What’s less obvious but just as significant is how this building will change what happens inside the school. Its studios and spaces are intentionally planned to foster collaboration, innovation and inspiration. The building is literally and figuratively both a crossroads and a connector.”

Located at a critical intersection of campus and city, within a dense urban block comprised of a wide range of buildings from different eras, the new Center is built upon the historical foundations of an early 20th-century structure. The design weaves together old and new with the transformation of a former brick gymnasium into a renewed, glass-enclosed, monumental volume. Its transparent new face to the city is a dramatic shift from the opacity of the original building and establishes a dynamic collaborative environment, a new front door and crossroads at the heart of campus. Now a distinct and visible presence on Huntington Avenue, the Center, supported by a series of four king-post trusses and punctuated by an entry vestibule along the eastern edge, extends into a new public plaza that blurs the distinction between interior and exterior space.

Marking the entry to the building, a double-height lobby creates a memorable focal point upon arrival. A choreographed sequence of stairs and ramps orients visitors to the major public spaces within, improves internal circulation and ushers visitors from the lobby into a triple-height public atrium, which serves as the central exhibition space. A concentration of mixed-use studio spaces, galleries, critique spaces and a lecture hall form a backdrop for major exhibitions. On multiple levels above the atrium, a series of walkways links the program spaces throughout the Center; a crenelated ceiling completes the space with a rhythmic series of skylights that animate the interior with daylight throughout the day. A new studio volume directly above the lobby is clad in a diaphanous screen of perforated metal that filters the southern light. The Center also includes new technical spaces for sound and light and a new wood shop on the lower level that serve the entire campus.

Sustainability is integral to the project. This newly daylit environment, along with energy efficient systems, local and recycled materials, and enhanced envelope performance will also contribute to making the overall campus increasingly sustainable. The building is designed to achieve LEED silver certification and is in compliance with Massachusetts Executive Order 484.

“This building ties into the roots of what is Massachusetts and what is Boston and this community,” stated Representative Jeffrey Sanchez, Massachusetts House of Representatives. “This is an economic driver and it is so much more than that. This Institution changes the lives of people.”

“We brought to this endeavor an attitude about architecture and design that seeks to connect people with their place in the world and to each other ‒ to open their eyes to the context in which they live,” remarks Ms. Rodriguez. “At MassArt we were inspired by the activity of the surrounding City, a campus culture that is alive with creative energy, collaboration and innovation and students and faculty that are engaged in a wide range of disciplines with a history of training artists to connect with the creative economy of the Commonwealth. It quickly became clear that this project had to make all of that visible by revealing MassArt’s world of art and design to the public.”

As Ken Strickland, Interim President and Provost of MassArt, declared at the opening, “The design of this building was an opportunity to take traditional practice and blend it with innovative thinking and lay out the groundwork for what the future of art and design practice will be for the 21st-century That is the heart of MassArt and the focus of this building and we are all very excited about moving forward as this promise materializes.”

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