Honorable Mention - SCUP Excellence in Architecture for a New Building

Duke University

Rubenstein Arts Center
Duke University - Rubenstein Arts Center
Jury Comments
“very optimistic, ambitious multidisciplinary project . . . liked the team’s integrative design process . . . a successful design integrating art-making, creative expression, and academic inquiry . . . beautiful”


    • Site – 4 acres; Building – 71,000 gsf
    • Studio classrooms are centered around two hubs that
      act as centers of gravity.
    • The Campus Drive in this area has been dubbed the
      “Arts Walk,” and there are future plans for sculpture gardens that connect The Ruby and the Nasher Museum of Art.
    • Each flexible studio opens itself to the life of the building through large, glazed openings and acoustically-treated barn doors.
    • This year The Ruby is hosting more than 50 courses and workshops in the arts that attract over 800 students each semester.


The Rubenstein Arts Center, dubbed “The Ruby,” reinvents the role of the arts within, extending Duke University’s culture of interdisciplinary study in science, engineering, and medicine to the arts. The project’s ambitious mission,
“a place that is all about the creative arts in the broadest and most expansive sense … a place where dancers are collaborating with engineers and anthropologists, actors creating with musicians, and documentary film makers interacting with humanists,” led to an architecture rooted in immersion, flexibility, openness, and balanced natural light. With transparent walls sending a message of welcome to the community, The Ruby supports all aspects of art-making and fosters a genuine campus arts community, where students and faculty from all areas of the arts can interact through special classes, workshops, artist residencies, performances, screenings, and public talks.

Located between Duke’s famous West Campus and East Campus, The Ruby is the first academic building on Duke’s
“New Campus” and is located directly across from the Nasher Museum of Art. At The Ruby, the individual flexible studio modules are expressed through precast panels that reference the Nasher Museum. However, the building turns the diagram inside out, orienting the studios and lobbies dramatically outward to campus. A 45’-high metal trellis covers a south-facing entrance plaza, itself an extension of the lobby, making the arts visible and seamlessly connected to campus.

Twelve flexible studio modules are tightly arranged around a central gathering space and an outdoor working yard. Each studio module is deliberately non-departmental and broadly equipped to allow different disciplines to work together without impediment. It is anticipated that functions in each module will change from year to year, and even day to day. Duke’s artist in residency program will be centered in this building, hosting the American Ballet Theatre in its first year.

Three special modules are at the heart of the building: The 200-seat von der Heyden Studio Theater accommodates collaborations with an easily reconfigurable layout. Abundant north light and views of the surrounding Duke woods recognizes the role of the space for the arts and can be “blacked out” with shades for performances as needed. At the Second Floor, the glassy Dance Cube projects toward campus and surrounds a central outdoor entrance courtyard. The transparent space, protected by perforated aluminum sunshades, showcases artistic activity to the university. A 100-seat Film Screening Room opens directly off the east lobby and can also serve as a lecture hall for classes and visiting artists.

Project Team

William Rawn Associates, Architects, Inc.