p/a Awards - THE URBN CENTER, Antoinette Westphall College of Media Arts and Design
100,000 sqft - 300,000 sqft
cc 2011 Our design to adaptively reuse a Venturi Scott-Brown Associates (VSBA) early "Decorated Shed" in downtown Philadelphia both respects this local icon and transforms it into a state-of-the-art design and media arts academic facility for Drexel University.
The adaptive reuse of this structure is to accommo¬date a radically different program and set of functions than its original did. The creative disciplines of fash¬ion, media arts, architecture, interior design, graphic design, etc, along with the desire for the newly formed College of Media Art and Design (COMAD) to advance the state of the art for interdisciplinary inter¬actions, influenced greatly the early design concepts. Because the existing building was not quite large enough to accommodate all the wishes of the College, distillation and innovative overlaps and sharing were required. Recognizing dynamic changes in disciplinary evolu¬tions, flexibility of use, and ongoing experimentation with pedagogical and curricular offerings were to be accommodated in this new environment, negotiat¬ing adjacencies, sizes, overlaps and sharing were real challenges of the design process. In the end, clear diagrammatic illustrations of segregated and shared uses, an innovative and dynamic “cultural commons,” and flexible offices, walls and furniture, all contrib¬uted to the unique and complex interior spatial and circulation anatomy..
A basic challenge of the design was to find ways to increase interior amenity and improve spatial quality without losing useable floor area. Several alternatives to accomplish this were explored but a final shear¬ing and severing along the north/south axis of a new four-story atrium was found to achieve the greatest benefits. By cost-effectively excavating this portion of the interior of the structure in this manner, removing and rebuilding added floors at lower floor-to-floor heights, the net useable area remained the same while new interior daylight and views were provided. A new transparent elevator and several bridge stairs were added in the new heart of the building, to provide access to the new mezzanine levels and to promote more direct access to diverse disciplines and educational venues.
The p/a awards recognize excellence and innovation in un-built design projects. Our submittal of the URBN center for The Antoinette Westphal College Of Media Arts & Design embodied these aspects by drastically transforming the interior environment of the existing buildings while embracing the creative cross-pollination that will occur due to our deign intervention. We foresee a shift in the educational paradigm from isolated design disciplines and are strongly convinced that our design can accommodate the future of creative education.