Boston based, design LAB has received awards for their work on the Emery Community Arts Center on the Farmington campus of the University of Maine (UMF) which opened last fall. The center was honored with a National Merit Award for Excellence in Architecture for a new building by the Society for College and University Planning. It was also recognized with an AIA New England honor award.
The multi-purpose arts center was created to provide three separate and flexible performance venues, joined by a single lobby. Funded by an anonymous gift to the university – the donation stipulated that the monies be used to build something that would benefit the college and surrounding community as well as support the exploration of the visual and performing arts.
The original concept for the performance space started out much larger than the finished project. There were various budgetary considerations that went in to the creation of the plans for the Arts Center that under other circumstances may have threatened to halt the project all together. But the team at design LAB was able to roll with the punches and take on those challenges with minimal issues.
The building was taken through construction drawings as well even as “what if” scenarios were being presented. The engineers and sub contractors were also working with BIM so the process moved along at a fast pace. As the project moved through various design iterations, lead architect, Kelly Ard says she relied on his firm’s ArchiCAD software to handle all the changes.
“We went through a number of redesigns, the most significant of which was the removal of an entire second gallery,” she explained. “As we were preparing ideas for estimate – one can expect some measure of change. But we had already broken ground when the gallery was removed. We basically had to deal with the chopping of a third of the building off and having to reconfigure all the plans that on the fly during construction. With the coordination of all the BIM models through ArchiCAD, we were able to make changes instantaneously. We issued a deduct alternate and a schematic plan, carrying out all coordination and detailing while the project was on-going. ”
Positioned as the keystone for the arts complex at UMF, the 15,000 square foot center compliments the historic performance venues of the existing Nordica Auditorium and Alumni Theater. It is equipped with dynamic vertical foldaway doors that can be opened to an outdoor performance area. The adjacent exhibit space can house performance art as well as traditional and new media displays.
The project itself was a simple wood clad white cedar board and batten siding with the aforementioned large hangar-style doors – that provides access between the performance space and the lawn Another design aspect of the building that created a challenge, met easily by ArchiCAD, was the exposed pipes and structural beams. The building was extremely stripped down – making parts of the structure that normally weren’t visible, visible.
“It was extremely helpful to be working with flexible and adaptable team collaboration on this project. Design changes were perceived as blips on the radar, so to speak, rather than a headache that can run up costs – even the major one that drastically reduced the size of the building. Without a BIM on this project, we would have had to delay construction and figure things out on paper – but because the entire team was on a BIM – we continued to move forward on the project.”