Snøhetta reveals designs for $88M Hopkins Art Center Project at Dartmouth

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Snøhetta reveals designs for $88M Hopkins Art Center Project at Dartmouth
The reimagined north facade honors the building’s iconic historic architecture and creates new, contemporary spaces for music, dance, and multi-disciplinary arts inside and out. Courtesy Sn°hetta & Methanoia.

HANOVER, NH.- Dartmouth today revealed first renderings for the forthcoming expansion and redesign of the Hopkins Center for the Arts (the Hop), situated at the heart of the college’s thriving Arts District. Led by the New York office of the renowned design practice Sn°hetta, the $88 million project will create a new wing that includes approximately 15,000 square feet of entirely new space and transforms an additional 55,000 square feet of existing space within the building. The project reimagines the function and flow of the Hop, by creating open and flexible performance and rehearsal spaces that will meet artists’ current and future demands and enhance audience engagement; by substantially improving accessibility and technological capabilities throughout the building, and by establishing new spaces for gathering as well as connections between indoor spaces and the new plaza landscape. The new wing also complements the Hop’s original architecture by Wallace K. Harrison, maintaining key building components such as the iconic arches, the beloved Top of the Hop, Moore Theater, Spaulding Auditorium, and Warner-Bentley Theater.

The Hop has long served as a groundbreaking hub and catalyst for creative expression. When its doors opened in 1962, the Hop was among the first university art centers in the U.S. to bring music, theater, dance, film, and visual arts programs under a single roof. The decision broke down long-entrenched artistic barriers and became a model of a truly interdisciplinary center for artists and audiences. Over the past five decades, the Hop has continued its commitment to experimentation and to the creation of new art forms and models by presenting daring, breakthrough performances; hosting artists from across the globe through residencies; and inspiring lifelong interest in the arts among students from across fields of study. Today, the Hop is also integrated within Dartmouth’s vibrant Arts District, which includes the Hood Museum of Art, redesigned by Tod Williams and Billie Tsien Architects in 2019, and the Black Family Visual Arts Center, completed in 2012 by Machado Silvetti.

The expansion and redesign of the Hop will support the on-site creation of ever-more ambitious performances and programs by both student and professional artists, embracing the continued blurring of boundaries between artistic disciplines and the growing incorporation of new technologies. Equally, it will address the growing demand for arts course offerings, which have waiting lists that number around 200 students per term. The increases in accessibility throughout the building as well as in the availability of flexible, technologically equipped spaces will allow for growth in the Hop’s artist residency programs and provide new resources for arts-related student groups and ensembles, which continue to flourish on campus. The transformation will also expand the number of events produced and presented by the Hop for the enjoyment of its community and those traveling to the region, enhancing its role as a cultural destination.

“At a time when humanity is grappling with so many challenges across the country and around the world, our commitment to the expansion of the Hop recognizes the power of the arts in building bridges and connections when words fall short,” says Laurel Richie ’81, chair of the Hopkins Center Board of Advisors and a former chair of the Dartmouth Board of Trustees. “We have seen just how often words fall short over the last few years. The arts community helps fill the void.”

Construction is scheduled to begin in late 2022, and the new Hop will reopen in 2025. During the construction process, the Hop will offer a range of performances and programs across different parts of the Dartmouth campus, in collaboration with other venues in the region, and within the building itself when possible. The Hop will continue to offer an array of digital programs to engage audiences across the country and the world. Hop leadership have been working to ensure that students have spaces to create, rehearse, and present work during the interim period before the redesign is complete.

"The arts inspire new ways of thinking and bring us together. This project puts the arts at the core of the Dartmouth experience," said Mary Lou Aleskie, the Howard L. Gilman ’44 Director of the Hopkins Center for the Arts. "The expansion and redesign will inspire artistic curiosity and experimentation, support diverse creative practices, and catalyze interdisciplinary collaboration among our students, faculty, and resident and visiting artists. Sn°hetta’s designs build upon the founding vision for the Hop, creating a welcoming environment for our audiences and versatile spaces that support the aspirations of today's artists."

The spirit of innovation that pervades the arts at Dartmouth has guided Sn°hetta’s vision for the Hop. Every element of the design reflects the core principles of welcoming, gathering, and creating, as foundational to the strategic vision for the Hop’s building and program as well as the Arts District more broadly. “The Hop has long been a center for creative expression on the Dartmouth campus. We’re honored to celebrate the arts through the redesign and expansion project, bringing music, theater, dance, and film together. As the prototype for an entire generation of academic and civic art centers, the Hop will be reimagined once more as the college’s cultural hub, a place of experimentation, art, and community,” said Craig Dykers, Founding Partner, Sn°hetta.

At the heart of the design is a reimagining of the Hop’s north facade and entry along East Wheelock Street, facing the campus Green and the renowned Baker-Berry Library. Design elements include the development of a sculpted exterior plaza that encourages people to gather, provides outdoor space for performance, and is planted with species native to the Upper Valley. Grading on the plaza intuitively articulates a connection to the Hop’s new central convening space, the forum, which also seamlessly unites the new wing with the building’s historic architecture. The forum establishes an orienting core for the Hop that previously did not exist, conveying the Hop’s vision of openness and invitation to its community to gather and experience the power of the arts and significantly improving wayfinding to other essential parts of the building. The light-filled forum, which features a glass facade, double-height ceiling, and a generous grand stair, offers a warm and engaging environment for people to spend time as well as an additional place for performances and arts experiences. Together, the plaza and forum also illustrate a connectivity between outdoor and indoor environments, a crucial aspect of the overarching design.

“Our approach combines the rugged and the refined and connects the Hop to both the social ecology of the campus and the natural ecology of the surrounding Upper Valley. The sculpted plaza takes cues from the elegant curves of the original Hopkins Center and inserts entry paths, places to gather, places to perform, and invites plants from the surrounding mountains to take root here,” said Darlene Montgomery, Director, Landscape Architecture, Sn°hetta.

This relationship with the natural environment is also reflected in the designs of the new Recital Hall and Dance Studio. Located on adjacent levels, the two spaces face the plaza and Dartmouth Green, and represent approximately 3,000-square-feet of entirely new space at the Hop. The Recital Hall, on the second floor, offers an exceptional space for the creation and presentation of musical performances and immersive experiences. The space features a sculpted wood interior and excellent acoustics, with spectacular views of the iconic Baker Library Tower and the landscapes beyond through double-height glass and lyrically curved window framing. It provides flexible seating for approximately 130 guests and will be outfitted with the latest technology to support the recording and broadcasting of events and rehearsals to engage a broad range of audiences and collaborators. During evening performances, the Recital Hall will project a warm glow onto the plaza, serving as an anchoring “lantern” within Dartmouth’s Arts District.

The creation of the Dance Studio marks the first time that the Hop will have a rehearsal space exclusively dedicated to dance. Positioned on the lower level, directly beneath the Recital Hall, and partially below ground, the space includes approximately 25-foot ceilings and a glass ribbon of windows to draw in the daylight and connect with the exterior plaza. Mirrored walls support the dancers and reflect the light, while enhancing the sense of openness within the space. The Dance Studio is adjoined by a suite of changing rooms to support the growing demand for dance classes.

In addition to the newly created environments, the expansion and redesign include the transformation of spaces across the building. Most notably, the current Alumni Hall will be reimagined as a Performance Lab, featuring flexible seating that allows for a range of interactions between performers and audiences and the latest in sound, lighting, projection, and broadcast technologies. The roof will also be raised and a sprung floor will be installed to create a state-of-the-art performance venue. The exterior of the Lab will feature sculptural curved, precast concrete cladding that will draw the eye and create another lantern-like effect on the south side of the building at night. The exteriors of the Recital Hall, Dance Studio, and Performance Lab are designed to establish a natural dialogue with the Hop’s arched facade, creating a harmonious relationship between the historic and contemporary architecture.

Additionally, improvements will be made to modernize Spaulding Auditorium, the Hop’s 900-seat theater, and the Top of the Hop, a beloved gathering space that will receive a substantial design refresh increasing its function as a social hub. On the lower level of the Hop, the Theater Rehearsal Lab will also be upgraded.

“Our aim is to continue the pioneering energy that the Hop embodied at its founding. As the arts at Dartmouth grow, this design will not only meet increasing needs for access and capabilities, but we hope will also provide inspirational environments that reinvigorate creative dialogue. We’re lucky to be able to work with a compelling existing building and look forward to breakthroughs in arts expression that at their best open us up to new ideas and to one another,” said Nick Anderson, Director, Senior Architect, Sn°hetta.

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