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Lancaster, Visual Arts Centre, Steven Holl Architects

A Convex Light Body: Winter Visual Arts Center in Lancaster

With its historical campus located on the outskirts of Lancaster, Franklin & Marshall College enjoys an impressive starting situation. The oldest building, which was erected in 1856, displays a heavy brick façade. In contrast, the new Winter Visual Arts Center represents both lightness and light.

Façade and Light Concept
The convex façade, which is influenced by the trees, surrounds the upper portion of the building, which sits on a solid concrete base and juts to all sides. Closed-off white walls alternate with translucent surfaces that allow diffuse light into the structure. At night, the building looks like a glowing paper lantern on the dark campus grounds. The fascinating light concept is guided by the motto of the college: Lux et Lex.

Floor Plan and Spatial Program
Visitors take a long ramp to reach the main entrance, which is on the first upper storey. A light-flooded lobby functions as a distribution area. Apart from the communal zones, each artistic subject area has its own, expressly designed space. The drawing studios extend over two storeys, while the smaller seminar rooms are of normal ceiling height. In the basement, the film and photo teams can darken their areas as desired. The effects of well-balanced daylight and artificial illumination can be detected throughout the building. Smooth surfaces such as polished terrazzo flooring accentuate the effect of the light even more.

Ecological Aspects
The trees that were already on the grounds have not only been preserved, but integrated directly into the design. Furthermore, the architects wanted to interfere as little as possible with the terrain. Existing lawns and shrubbery remain virtually untouched. Adding the ramp as access made it possible to do without new pathways through the green space.

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DETAIL 5/2021


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