- Project Name
- Knox College Whitcomb Art Center
- Lake|Flato Architects
- Knox College
- Project Types
- Project Scope
- New Construction
- 27,478 sq. feet
- Year Completed
- Project Status
FROM THE ARCHITECTS:
The Whitcomb Art Center creates a vibrant new home for the Knox College art program and serves as a civic bridging agent welcoming in and melding together the diverse cultural identities of the neighborhoods and districts surrounding the site: Knox’s traditional academic campus, Galesburg’s central business core, and the adjacent industrial warehouse district. The facility integrates the studio art and art history departments of Knox College in a new, light-filled, cost-effective, modern building anchored by a landscaped event and work courtyard. Inside, a series of double height studios, galleries, and critique spaces foster a vibrant interdisciplinary art community and program. The program includes academic and support space through a lecture hall, seminar room, various studio spaces, administrative offices, and tying it all together is an open floor plan with few doors. The central circulation hallway doubles as a critique space and informal gallery. With an extremely lean project budget that yielded a construction cost of only $220 / SF, the Whitcomb Art Center by necessity truly reflects the self-described scrappy and unconventional community of Knox’s art department. Within this lean mindset every design decision contributes to multiple performance goals in a highly integrated way. This building is a high-performing workhorse shaped for efficient daylight capture and made of simple industrial materials carefully assembled in surprising and elegant ways. Crafted of pre-engineered metal, the exterior blends into the surrounding urban and industrial fabric, eroding the historic implied boundary between Knox’s academic realm and the get-your-hands-dirty mindset of working artists, makers and industrial fabricators. The rhythmic saw-tooth roofline, skylights that harvest north daylight, and accents of reclaimed brick and salvaged wood combine to create a hardworking and ultra-efficient facility that responds to yet also transcends both its historic and industrial contexts. By consolidating the studio art and art history departments, the Whitcomb Art Center plays a significant role in stimulating creative, explorative, and entrepreneurial culture. The building accommodates recent growth and unites disparate campus functions. Open stairs, intimate informal seating areas and public pin-up spaces encourage collaboration and the exchange of ideas between students and professors and passers-by moving throughout the building. The vibrance of Knox’s art culture and its responsiveness to the surrounding natural environment is displayed by the building’s dynamic facade comprised of large sliding panels that serve as sun-shading devices, adjustable with the changing seasons.
Knox College’s art department holds a very specific and unique set of pedagogic ideas about the education of young artists. Making physical, visceral things is important in this educational mindset, as is working within self-imposed limits, being aware of the preciousness of physical resources, making use of found materials and integrating them smartly into a coherent assemblage. Being “scrappy” is highly valued here. For decades the department’s existing makeshift facilities had been neither adequate nor healthy, and scrappiness was becoming necessary even to accomplish the most basic tasks of art education at Knox College. Students had been dispersed across multiple awkwardly repurposed campus buildings. Most importantly the department lacked cohesive facilities to support its pedagogy and to enable its students to thrive. In 2014 Knox College allocated $8.6 million as the total project cost to build a new 30,000 SF facility to consolidate the art department. The design team was selected and set to work researching and developing an in-depth understanding of the department’s needs and aspirations with deeply focused investigations into both high performance design strategies and pedagogy. As recounted by department chair Mark Holmes: “A day before our first meeting, I sent the architectural team a 50 page departmental self-study, and was stunned to find that they had all read it before we met. Throughout our meetings, the team wanted to know everything about our department -- our history, how we taught, our perspectives as teachers, how students and faculty might use various spaces. As the process continued, it became clear that their curiosity was paying off with innovative solutions that integrated concerns for both aesthetics and functionality.” The Whitcomb Art Center completed construction and opened for classes in 2017 on time and on budget, and received LEED Gold certification. With the new facility up and running, art department chair Mark Holmes summarizes his department’s collective sense of success with the project and what the design team set out to do: “A year or so into its life, the building has a palpable effect on students and faculty alike. For one thing, everyone loves to be there - we all spend more time helping or talking informally with students and just indulging our interest in the light, space, and shapes. The amount of daylight is a huge benefit.” The building has increased the art department’s exposure to the wider campus community, drawing in students in far greater numbers to pursue art studies who would not have otherwise enrolled in art classes. The regional arts community has begun to make use of the building as well for special events and for community education programs during summers, and for seasonal artists-in-residence who now exhibit and work in the building during summers. Art student Olivia Keneipp offers this experiential assessment of the project: "The space where you make art is hugely influential. I like the way that everything is connected, and that it's also very open. It's great for someone who's engaged in creating."
Project: Knox College Whitcomb Art Center, Galesburg, Ill.
Owner: Knox College
Architects: Lake|Flato Architects, San Antonio
Associate Architect: Klingner & Associates
Structural Engineer: Lynch Harrison & Brumleve
Engineer - MEP: Affiliated Engineers Inc
Engineer - Civil: Klingner & Associates
Landscape Architect: Hoerr Schaudt
Contractor: P.J. Hoerr Commissioning: BLDD