UA Art+Design District

Posted on May 19th, 2017 at 10:36 am by




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In late April, David and Mike Sinclair made their way to Fayetteville to photograph the first phase of the University of Arkansas Art & Design District, a new facility providing state-of-the-art shop and studio spaces for a rapidly expanding art department. The building’s design is a partnership with MODUS Studios in Fayetteville. It was constructed by Nabholz Construction.

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The first building in the Art & Design District sets a highly functional tone, supporting the essential needs of art faculty and students. The building is durable and flexible, but also elegant in the way it moves beyond a strictly industrial vocabulary. White cladding maintains a high albedo to help keep the building cool in Fayetteville’s notoriously hot summers. Façade compositions are the result of multiple strategies to filter daylight into the building and provide ambient exterior lighting at night along a popular recreational trail. Tall, linear light diffusion panels indicate the location of the primary steel building frames. More important, they are positioned in an interior location that will not compromise valuable wall space.

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The Art & Design District is situated on a 3.8-acre satellite campus, a former light industrial area a few miles south of the main University of Arkansas campus. The adjacent Tsa La Gi trail connects to a much broader network of trails linking the communities of Northwest Arkansas. Being on the trail offers an opportunity to connect the Art Department, and eventually other departments in the District, with the broader Fayetteville community in non-traditional ways.

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The 33,000 square foot program houses sculpture teaching labs, first year and MFA studio space, a woodshop, a steel shop, a mold making/wax studio, an advanced technologies lab, a protected foundry, indoor/outdoor work areas, a spray booth, and a voluminous, technologically well-equipped gallery.

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Studio space is open and well-lit. Generous corridors provide ample display and critique space. Walls are designed to be durable in accommodation of presenting student work. Lighting is efficient and flexible. The environments are purposefully designed to be neutral, to serve as a backdrop to the work.

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Half of the square footage is housed within an existing pre-engineered building frame, made efficient by introducing a second floor within the volume. New bays to the east and west double the building’s original footprint.

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The building is an argument for a reserved, yet sophisticated architecture where supporting the pedagogy of the art department is the main priority. The project began within the contextual setting of pre-engineered, light industrial buildings. Through a process of select renovation and careful addition, the result is architecture that transcends its humble origins, setting the tone for an ambitious new academic district beyond the traditional campus.

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