Oct 20, 2000

School of the Arts Considers Expanding in Prentis Hall on W. 125th

By Ulrika Brand

Prentis Hall view from 125th St.

Columbia has commissioned the architectural firm SHoP/Sharples Holden Pasquarelli to study the feasibility of expanding the School of the Arts facilities to include its Digital Media Center, Jazz Center, art gallery, a screening room, two black box theatres and increased rehearsal space.

The School of the Arts classrooms, offices and studios, now spread among nine campus buildings, would be concentrated in two locations, Dodge Hall on campus, and Prentis Hall on W. 125th St.

Under the proposal, Dodge would remain the site of the school administration as well as its writing division, and Prentis would be significantly renovated and expanded. Emily Lloyd, executive vice president for administration, and Bruce W. Ferguson, dean of the School of the Arts, announced the study.

"The renovation and expansion of Prentis Hall would enable the School of the Arts both to consolidate its facilities and to expand its curriculum," said Ferguson. "The facility would allow for increased enrollment in the visual arts division and the creation of new degree programs in interactive design, media studies and theatre design."

Lloyd said, "We are excited about the potential for creating a center for public and University interaction with the arts. We believe this will support community interest in revitalization of the area."

In addition, the proposed new Prentis Hall would house studios for Columbia's Computer Music Center and include production facilities for Fathom and the Center for New Media Teaching and Learning.

A former milk bottling plant owned by the University, Prentis currently houses studios for visual arts students, offsite book storage for Butler Library and a heat transfer lab.

To design the plan for the renovation of Prentis Hall, the University has selected an architectural firm acclaimed for its innovative projects. Ferguson led the six-month long review process, heading a panel that included administrators and architect Bernard Tschumi, dean of the Graduate School of Architecture and Planning.

Ferguson said, "The School of the Arts was looking for a design team to create a building to serve the needs of young artists and to create a presence for the school‹both internationally and as an anchor for an emerging neighborhood. As a forward-thinking school we wanted to work with an imaginative, innovative team. We feel the architects at SHoP have the creativity, energy and sympathy to develop and execute a truly exciting plan."

Architectural critics have praised SHoP for its recent work, including "Dunescape," an outdoor installation and winner of the Young Architects program at the Museum of Modern Art + P.S. 1 Art Center. The firm renovated the North American headquarters for Benetton Sportsystems in Bordentown, N.J., and has received the commission for the Museum of Sex, in New York City. SHoP is currently featured in an exhibition series, "The Long View," at the Urban Center of New York, organized by the Museum of Modern Art and the Municipal Arts Society, with Philip Johnson acting as curatorial consultant.

The architects at SHoP/ Sharples Holden are all graduates of Columbia's Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation, including Gregg Pasquarelli, who is an adjunct professor at the school. The partners at SHoP include, in addition to Pasquarelli, Kimberly Holden and Christopher, William and Coren Sharples. The proposal for the Prentis project will be delivered at the beginning of 2001, and pending funding, construction will be completed within three years.