The new Theatre and Studio Arts building is sited directly across the lawn from the recently completed Ruth and Elmer Wellin Museum, also designed by Machado and Silvetti Associates, as part of a collection of buildings around a reconstructed pond that creates a new arts quad at Hamilton College. Built on an open, sloping site, the facility is located along the southern edge of the property, to shape an interior lawn, which slopes gently down to the pond at the site’s center. The project’s highest element, the Flexible Theatre, is placed at the hilltop to make a visual connection between the new building and the old campus. Porosity is a critical component of the design, with a goal of inducing movement through and around the new building to draw it fully into the campus fabric. The project siting and design carefully considers pedestrian and vehicular access from existing campus walking paths and roads.
Theatre and the visual arts are integrated into the broader liberal arts curriculum at Hamilton College. Students and faculty from all majors and departments use the new building. The Theatre and Studio Arts Building brings classrooms, studios, faculty offices, performance spaces, and technical workshops into one 24-hour facility to reinforce this interdisciplinary program. The building brings two-dimensional, three-dimensional, and four-dimensional art studios under the same roof in a facility with state-of-the-art ventilation systems, controllable natural light, loading dock and freight elevator access, and classrooms and storage spaces, specially designed to accommodate Hamilton’s unique visual arts curriculum.
The project is designed with 2D studio spaces on the second floor, where they can benefit from natural daylight, and 3D studios and supporting workshops on the lower level, to accommodate large tools and facilitate the movement of heavy materials. 4D program areas are equipped with state-of-the-art digital media technologies. The multidisciplinary space draws students from art, theatre, and music departments, as well as mathematics, social sciences, physics, and others, using digital media as a bridge between diverse areas of study. The program elements are comprised of teaching classrooms, preproduction and editing studios, and a central screening room. Given the natural crossover between the digital photography and the work being done in the 4D studios, these teaching spaces are placed in close proximity.
Wide corridors and a high-capacity service elevator connect all of the studios into one large program neighborhood and provide easy access to all shared workshop spaces. Noise levels are carefully considered and special attention is paid to sound isolation between shops, offices, classrooms, theaters, and highly sensitive sound-recording spaces. The facility also includes three types of performance space designed around Hamilton’s pedagogy: the ‘Teaching Studio,’ where acting is taught, the ‘Lab,’ where ideas are tested, and the ‘Flexible Theatre,’ the space where larger scale theatrical productions are performed.
Workshop and studio spaces require high ventilation rates and large quantities of fresh air. Mechanical systems are designed to provide the highest level of safety for students and faculty while taking advantage of all opportunities for energy conservation. CO2 and motion sensors, as well as manual user overrides, are used to modulate ventilation rates in response to building occupancy and actual ventilation needs. The building utilizes heat recovery units to draw energy off of exhausted air; systems are designed to maximize benefits associated with the diversity of ventilation rates and heating and cooling needs.