The new $32 million, 87,000-square-foot Gateway building at MICA houses a dormitory, theater, café, and career center at the edge of the Baltimore campus.
The Gateway's drum shape was derived from a series of site constraints - the trapezoidal parcel is bordered on all sides by existing roadways - and a desire to have a unique sculptural building on campus that reflects the creativity of the artists who live, work, and study there. The drum holds dormitory apartments. A nine-story rectangular tower on the northern face of the building houses studios for the art students.
The recessed first and second floors contain many of the building's public functions, including the lobby, theater, and café. Sixteen different types of glass are used in the building. The character of the glazing gives a clue to the spaces within: clear glass for public spaces; fritted glass allowing sightlines into the studio spaces, but a modicum of privacy; and more-opaque, colored glass in the residential areas.
The lobby doubles as a gallery, with partitions that can be brought in to showcase student work. These informal art shows get a boost in attendance from people arriving for performances in the BBox theater, a black box theater for movie screenings, lectures, concerts, and other events.
The Gateway building is centered around an open courtyard, situated atop a plinth of public spaces on the first and second floors. The courtyard has multiple functions: It admits daylight to the dormitory apartments and it functions as both an informal meeting space and outdoor performance venue. Outdoor theater lighting by Altman is suspended from 1 1/2-inch steel pipes and can be used to illuminate nighttime performances.
A dominant visual feature of the 63 student apartments is colored glazing, an insulating spandrel glass manufactured by Viracon. The white, gray, and green colors are applied with a ceramic frit. Concrete balconies and walkways provide basic circulation as well as vantage points for watching outdoor performances.
Transparency is an important facet of the project, fostering community by allowing each student to see the workspace and artwork of others living in the Gateway. The architects specified floor-to-ceiling Viraspan spandrel glass on the exterior and courtyard façades of the drum.
Most of the apartments are three- and four-bedroom units, meaning that the individual rooms are extremely compact. Custom furniture by Coriander Designs combines all of the functional necessities - bed, desk, and armoire - into one unit, made from sustainably grown maple, that can be reconfigured to meet individual student needs. Homosote panels provide pinup space so that the artists can display their work, and operable windows ensure natural airflow to dispel any fumes from art supplies.