Arkansas university selects architecture teams to lead its fine arts center restoration

The University of Arkansas has selected architecture firms Deborah Berke Partners and Miller Boskus Lack to lead the restoration of its Fine Arts Center in Fayetteville, Arkansas. Photo courtesy University of Arkansas
The University of Arkansas has selected architecture firms Deborah Berke Partners and Miller Boskus Lack to lead the restoration of its Fine Arts Center in Fayetteville, Arkansas.
Photo courtesy University of Arkansas

Architecture firms Deborah Berke Partners (DBP), based in New York, and Miller Boskus Lack (MBL) of Fayetteville, will work with the University of Arkansas (U of A) and its Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences to restore the campus’s Fine Arts Center in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

DBP is known for transforming old buildings and their innovative approaches to arts buildings on campuses. The firm has breathed new life into buildings by renowned architects of the past, including HH Richardson, McKim, Mead & White, Albert Kahn, and Louis Kahn.

“The historic significance, beauty, and impact of our beloved Fine Arts Center cannot be overstated, and selecting a team that would be able to preserve Edward Durrell Stone’s vision while restoring the center properly was no easy task,” said Joe Steinmetz, U of A chancellor. “But in DBP and MBL, we have found a phenomenal design team with the knowledge and skills needed for this project.”

Steinmetz said Deborah Berke is also dean of the Yale School of Architecture, adding “both she and DBP have a unique and needed perspective on restoring and creating campus spaces that have both high function and beauty of form.”

The design and construction team will start by conducting a programming and scope exercise to validate all elements of the project before moving on to schematic design.

DBP and MBL will work with a U of A building committee: Con-Real Construction as the project’s construction manager; Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates as a historic preservation consultant; civil engineers Development Consultants Inc.;  HSA Engineering as mechanical, electrical, plumbing, and fire protection engineers; structural engineers Martin/Martin; and landscape architects Ground Control to ensure campus master planning, preservation, design, and sustainability principles are followed throughout the project.

Additionally, theater designer Charcoalblue will join the group to help preserve the University Theatre space in the Fine Arts Center while incorporating the latest acoustic and audiovisual (AV) components.

Construction is tentatively scheduled to begin in early 2022 and to finish around fall 2023. The construction will be completed in phases that are currently being determined.

“We are delighted to be working with the University of Arkansas to transform the Fine Arts Center for the 21st century,” said Deborah Berke, a partner at DBP. “Edward Durrell Stone’s building is an important early example of International Style Modernism in the U.S. The university has been an excellent steward of this well-used and well-loved hub of creativity and learning, and we look forward to revitalizing and adapting it to meet the needs of the present and the future.”

The Fine Arts Center is situated near the center of campus, between the Central Quad and the Chi Omega Greek Theatre and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

When it was built in 1951, it was the first multidisciplinary academic arts building in the country—bringing together fine and applied arts, architecture, dance, music, sculpture, painting, and drama into a single home, emphasizing the belief in their innate connection.

“The Fine Arts Center was visionary and ahead of its time in combining multidisciplinary arts in one facility in 1951,” said Noah Biklen, DBP partner-in-charge on the project. “In our work, we explore how to make buildings and spaces more visible and accessible to wider publics. What is exciting about the promise of this project is the opportunity to restore and transform the building for today’s needs in the spirit of the original idea of the Fine Arts Center as a hub of creativity and collaboration.”

Biklen said the restoration project will include the exterior and the interior of the building, as well as some site elements. The interior will also be sensitively renovated to better support the departments’ program requirements.

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