SCUP/AIA-CAE Excellence in Architecture for a New Building,
The University of Maine at Farmington for the Emery Community Arts Center with designLAB architects
|Photo by Peter Vanderwarker|
The new Emery Community Arts Center (ECAC) was conceived as a venue to explore the visual and performing arts in Farmington, Maine, to be shared by the community and the students of the University of Maine.
Two goals were to encourage unimpeded use of the building by those outside the university, and to support the talent base of the university locally.
The jury said “ . . . admired them for trying to do a lot with a little and succeeding . . . beautifully simple . . . beautifully elegant . . . restraint and simplicity was refreshing – one material, one step, no chaos, extreme amount of clarity . . .”
The site was chosen for its adjacency to Alumni Theater (home to the university’s theater department) and for its proximity to the edge of campus and downtown. The building unites several campus spaces that are separated by significant differences in topography.
Including the community during planning allowed a sense of ownership of the final design and strengthened the town and gown relationship.
The ECAC is one of the first structures to execute a key element of the master plan: improving the quality of the campus green.
The Studio Theater and Flex Space provide many possibilities for local and student artists. The 125-seat black box performance space can be used as a theater-in-the-round or exterior amphitheater. The white box gallery can be used as a traditional gallery, music and lighting installations, poetry readings or multi-media performances.
The ECAC provides at least one important lesson for the future. With regard to academic programming, its success shows that a campus building can serve a greater community beyond its own. The place is a social condenser and uses program as a means for generating community partnership.
The stipulation that the project be fully integrated with the community enables collaboration that will lead to expansion and growth within the art department at the university.
“The architect clearly ‘got it’ and helped push the leading edge of the project concept. The Emery has identified a bolder vision for the campus and community than we knew we had,” says President Theodora J. Kalikow.
Project Team: The University of Maine at Farmington with designLAB architects; also Allied Engineering; Gorrill-Palmer Consulting Engineers; Fisher Dachs Associates; Acentech; Matthew Cunningham