commARCH Sept/Oct 2021 Issue - Page 60

commARCH : What did the university need to achieve with this project ?
Heidi Fichtenbaum : The building that this particular project is in was built in the 60s . So it was very traditional in terms of classroom space and performance space . And we felt that one of the things we were hoping was to maybe bring it forward into a more contemporary approach to learning . This particular program has been extremely successful with a lower level of technology and teaching space , but they ' ve been extremely successful in placing their students in professional jobs ... [ it ' s ] just an amazing credit to the professors and the program that they ' ve been able to find such wonderful positions out in the industry of animation .
So we really wanted the architecture to reflect that ... maybe a series of renovations to the school of the arts that have that " wow " factor .
cA : Was there any measurement that you were going to use as a result of this investment ?
HF : The school of the arts is doing some master planning and they saw this as a springboard to fundraising . So not only within the space , you can see what ' s happening . That ' s something that ' s so different about this space than other traditional classrooms .
cA : This could have gone in so many different directions . So how did you start crystallizing what this space should really be ?
Elizabeth Burke : They wanted to do this cool place for the kids to go . You know , I first started coming up with a concept . Here was this wireframe idea of what it would feel like if you were in a wireframe , like when you ’ re 3D modeling , or at least how it used to be .
And then we took it from there and first started hashing out the programming , seeing what they needed . They used to do all of their virtual reality work out in the hallway .
There was a 3D printing area shoved in the corner and they really wanted to get a couple more 3D printers . wanted to go in . And they had mentioned industrial type feeling . We started looking at the site and seeing what we can do . And then , we just started from there and I think I gave them [ about four different ] configurations and we settled on one . And then I went from there designing it , while making sure everything fit within their budget .
HF : I have to say that the display component of this is just creative , because the whole room is the display case . That ' s what ' s so fun about it .
The room is the display case because of the sort of box that protrudes into the corridor and all the glass that allows you to see in what ' s happening inside .
Those are the key design features and moves that have taken it from pedestrian to extraordinary .
cA : Talk about the student experience and knowing this is a place where they ' re going to fulfill themselves .
HF : We struggled to provide that experience in an older building that will help students envision the transformation that will happen to them when they come to our university and are looking ahead to a career in animation ; that when you walk up to this room , it ' s going to happen .
EB : You don ' t expect it . Because you can come in on the first floor and then all of a sudden you walk up the stairs . It ' s wait , where ' d this come from ? It ' s this new thing . It ' s like window shopping .
You walk by and you see all these little figures in the window instead of just a display cabinet , you ' re walking by and it ' s like you ' re window shopping .
cA : What was the collaborative process like ?
HF : We worked with the faculty and talked to them about what they envision and got a pre-programming document together to give to the designers . And then organized a meeting so that the designers could meet face-to-face with the faculty and hear directly what they were aspiring to .
They need a space for heating and cooling of these machines and everything to be well-ventilated because they have all these CPUs in there .
So we took all the information . I sorted it out [ and ] looked at what they had given me , like what kind of direction they
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