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Architects begin work on fine and performing arts building

August 23, 2010 12:00AM

President Steve Scott meets with administrators and architects about a new fine and performing arts building on the PSU campus.

Although there's still "a lot of work to do," PSU President Steve Scott said today that he senses more excitement about the construction of a fine and performing arts building than he's seen in a long time.

Scott and other university administrators met with the architects selected to design the project on Friday. Larry Diehl, Michael Kautz and Duane Cash from ACI/Frangkiser Hutchens, Inc., an architectural firm with offices in Leawood, Kan.; Kansas City, Mo.; and St. Louis, Mo., spoke to the group about the work ahead.

In his opening remarks to faculty on Thursday, the president listed the fine and performing arts building as one area of strategic focus for the coming year.

"I want to energize the campus (around this project)," President Scott said Friday. "Hiring an architect is a huge step forward.

Interim Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences Stephen Meats recalled that he was standing on the Oval when the wrecking ball first swung to take down Carney Hall, with its big auditorium.

"It left a gaping hole," Meats said. "I, for one, am just overjoyed; not just for the campus, but for the community as a whole."

Filling the void left by the razing of Carney Hall has been a dream since the building came down more 30 years ago. The dream got a jump start in recent years with a $10 million anonymous pledge. The university now has $6 million of that pledge in hand, Scott said, and it is time to make the dream a little less abstract so additional funding can be pursued.

Diehl, the lead architect on the project, said his firm wouldn't let the university down. To that end, he said, the firm will work with William Rawn Associates, an architectural firm in Boston, Mass. Rawn was ranked the number one architecture firm in the country on Architect Magazine's Top 50 List in 2009 and received the 2008 Distinguished Achievement Award in Architectural Design of Theaters from the United States Institute of Technology. While ACI/Frangkiser Hutchens is the architect of record on the project, Rawn will do the design of the building.

Similar projects designed by Rawn include the Lincoln Center Plaza Theater, the Babson College Performing Arts Center, Seiji Ozawa Hall at Tanglewood, and the Music Center at Strathmore.

Diehl said Rawn will engage some of the top theater and acoustical design consultants in the country as they plan PSU's new center.

The timeline for the design is "aggressive," Diehl said, beginning with a survey of the site in the coming weeks. Approval of the program for the building and setting a budget, two of the most critical steps, is expected to take place early in the fall semester. Approval of the final design for the building is expected to take place in the spring.

Throughout the timeline, but especially in the early program discussions, a strong effort will be made to gather campus input, especially from the principle users of the center, including not only the fine and performing arts faculty, but students and patrons, as well.

"This is a highly participatory process," said Doug Johnson, project executive from William Rawn Associates.

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