DAYLO STEM Center and Breen Performing Arts Center – Nestled on a picturesque site in Princeton, the DAYLO STEM Center and Breen Performing Arts Center celebrates the connection between arts and sciences. A gracious, glass-clad addition houses the theater foyer that stretches along the auditorium. A newly landscaped science terrace and garden offer outdoor teaching and learning space alongside the renovated labs. These design interventions transform what had been the back of the building into a vibrant and accessible new entrance. The new destination on campus connects students, faculty, and visitors in lighted spaces wrapped in warm, natural materials and provides visual access to the outdoors on a year-round basis.
Architizer chatted with Diego Samuel, Design Director at HDR, to learn more about this project.
Architizer: What inspired the initial concept for your design?
Diego Samuel: We wanted to unite the art and science departments in a welcoming environment that highlights their natural synergies and allows them to function independently under the same roof. This included modernizing infrastructure, lab equipment and expanding the theatre program to include a proper scene shop and dressing room. Central to the design was finding a way for both departments to use the shared courtyard. Offering easy access from the foyer, performers and theatergoers enjoy the shared space before and after shows. With tiered greenspace, benches, and tables, teachers facilitate class outdoors in what they call the “living lab.” Transforming the back of the building with a glass-clad addition housing a new entrance and theatre foyer stretching along the auditorium was also integral. The new façade and added functional space create a new destination on campus.
This project won in the 10th Annual A+Awards! What do you believe are the standout components that made your project win?
One standout element that comes to mind is the use of natural materials that dovetail throughout the building. The undulating wood is a featured element in the theatre, foyer, and outside in the courtyard.
What was the greatest design challenge you faced during the project, and how did you navigate it?
The original tight, narrow layout of the labs made already poor natural light conditions worse and interrupted opportunities for group collaboration. Our solution of removing walls created two large, open labs flooded with natural light that come together in a shared space usable by students across disciplines. On the theatre side, one significant challenge was reworking the layout to filter guests through the back of the house instead of the stage side as in the original design. Adding the foyer allowed us to filter guests into the theatre through doors at the back of the house.
How did the context of your project — environmental, social or cultural — influence your design?
This project is an excellent example of what’s possible when a campus blends environmental, social, and cultural programs in one building. Our initial workshops unearthed the need for the school to prepare young adults for the next phase of their higher education and, eventually, professional careers. This building allows students to do just that in an environment that’s quite literally a physical manifestation of the interdisciplinary hubs that many higher education institutions are becoming.
What is your favorite detail in the project and why?
My favorite detail is the undulating wood along the walls and ceiling of the theatre and foyer that wraps around the corner spilling into the courtyard. It is a technically complex design detail that offers functional value by hiding HVAC equipment overhead.
For more on DAYLO STEM Center and Breen Performing Arts Center, please visit the in-depth project page on Architizer.