Honorable Mention - SCUP Excellence in Architecture for Building Additions, Renovation or Adaptive Reuse

Macalester College

Macalester College Janet Wallace Fine Arts Center
Macalester College - Macalester College Janet Wallace Fine Arts Center
Jury Comments
“great use of programming to expose students from other disciplines to the arts . . . right on target with mission- centric approach that is innovative and solves tough problems . . . symbolic use of exterior materials is very effective”


    • Site – 70,000 sq ft; Building – 201,000 sq ft
      Phase One Music: 57,000 sf renovation; 51,000 sf new; total 108,000 sf | Phase Two Studio Art: 27,000 sf renovation; 7,000 sf new; total: 34,000 sf | Phase Three Theater, Dance, and Classrooms: 59,000 sf new.
    • A key goal of the project was to break down barriers between arts disciplines and create flexible space for multidisciplinary endeavors.
    • The Music and Theater wings now front a shared lobby, allowing for multidisciplinary programming.
    • A skyway between the adjacent Science Building and the Theater Building is a literal bridge between the disciplines.
    • The Arts Commons—with pinup walls designed to showcase art—is an extension of the formal gallery but also acts as an event and informal performance space.
    • The orchestral rehearsal room doubles as a banquet hall and green room, and the flexible theater was designed specifically to accommodate both theater and dance rehearsal performances.


Built in 1963, the original Janet Wallace Fine Arts Center consisted of four buildings for music, art, humanities, and theater/dance, joined by an inwardly-focused gallery space. This renovation and expansion—completed in three phases— addressed two overarching goals: to reinvent the mid-century complex to provide students and faculty with additional programmatic flexibility and technologically state-of-the-art facilities, and to foster a stronger connection between arts disciplines and the larger campus community. Recognizing that the arts are important for all students, not just art majors, Macalester sought to reintegrate the arts into the everyday fabric of campus life.

The resulting Arts Commons creates a new front door to the arts from the main campus quad and provides a centralized gathering space to serve the arts disciplines. Phase One (Music) reconfigured and expanded the building to increase functionality and flexibility, including a concert hall, dedicated choral and instrument rehearsal spaces, individual practice rooms, and teaching studios. Phase Two (Studio Art) provided light-filled studio spaces for sculpture, printmaking, drawing, painting, ceramics, and digital media. Phase Three (Theater, Dance, and Classrooms) completed the project with a flexible theater, dance studios, scene shop, rehearsal space, and general use active learning classrooms.

Each phase includes unique exterior design elements that highlight the arts. A staccato texture of bronze metal panels references the materiality of musical instruments in Phase One; four color semi-translucent glazed terra cotta panels reflect the sculpture and glazing process within Phase Two; a perforated, back-lit metal scrim outside the main entrance in Phase Three alludes to the fabric, movement, and lighting unique to the dramatic arts.

By working with the individual departments not only to accommodate individual programmatic needs, but also opportunities to work across disciplines, the project brings the arts disciplines together to live out Macalester’s commitment to the liberal arts.

Project Team

HGA; Schuler Shook; Acoustic Distinctions; Threshold Acoustics; McGough Construction; Michaud Cooley Erickson; BKBM