Columbia College is a performance arts college located in the South Loop of Chicago. The dancecenter has occupied a renovated and adapted 33,000 SF 3 story building at the corner of 13th andMichigan Avenues since 1999. As part of their developing South Loop performance arts campus,Columbia College will build a new 40,000 SF $20 Million dance center at the corner of 11th Street andMichigan Avenue.
With the collaboration of Columbia College staff, IIT College of Architecture students were given atask to create an iconic building for Columbia College by using structure as a determining factor of design.
In my proposal I decided to divide the program in two main groups: a theater, and a dance school.Those functions are located in separate buildings, connected by a long “tube” of student lounges andpublic dining hanging over the street. The tube symbolizes the new concept of the college ‐ it connectsthe neighboring community to the school and invites public in. By projecting it over the Michigan andWabash Avenues the building pops out of the grid and while walking, it gives a sign to a pedestrian thatthere is something going on around the corner.
The gap between two buildings is “filled” with an open‐air performance space. In place of having aflat surface, I decided to extrude the part of it with large and wide stairs, which could be used forcirculation as well as a seating for auditorium. Between the staircases the glazed wall creates a visuallink from the street into the school, its student lounges and dance studios.
Visual links play a big role in the whole design. Void spaces and glazed walls of the theater and danceschool, facing each‐other, have a good visual connection, underlining the entity of the center. There arevarious visual connections in the tube, as well. While using different functions we can see different partsof the center: the restaurant, located in the eastern side of the tube, is united with the dance studiovoid space; central student lounge, hanging over the open‐air stage, can be seen from the street or theup‐mentioned stairs. And the western part of the tube is connected to the theater.
Three kinds of spaces were designed for visitors of the theater – a very steep auditorium with 400seats, and two types of balconies: one where people can lie down and another, where visitors have anextreme feeling of being almost on the stage. That way I developed an intimate atmosphere needed fordance performances and offered options for different priorities.
Finally, as for the structural determination, I created a structural tube with diagonal truss system inorder to avoid torsion and let forces follow form. Structures play a big role in the theater, as well. Loadbearing walls turn into sharp angled beams for the sitting area. The roof is supported on truss beams.