Arts Center architectural team has extensive experience in building campus arts facilities

An architectural design team with a strong record of building higher education arts facilities has been chosen to design the new Performing Arts Center.

At its Feb. 24 meeting, the Arts Center Architects Selection Committee voted unanimously to recommend the team of Michael Dennis & Associates/Howard-Montgomery-Steger and Smallwood, Reynolds, Stewart, Stewart & Associates to design the center, to be constructed at the corner of Clifton and North Decatur roads. The Real Estate, Buildings and Grounds Committee of the Board of Trustees voted Feb. 26 to accept the recommendation.

Michael Dennis, principal of Michael Dennis & Associates of Boston, will be in charge of the overall design effort, including siting and the building's relationship to the campus master plan, building design and character, and the design and character of the performance venues. Dennis' previous higher education experience includes the University Center and the Purnell Center for the Arts (theater and art gallery) at Carnegie Mellon University; the Arizona State University Music Building, and buildings at the University of Southern California, the University of Virginia and Ohio State University.

Michael Howard, a principal of Houston-based Howard-Montgomery-Steger, will serve as performance principal for the arts center project. With campus experience on more than 30 performance projects, Howard will be in charge of programming, academic and functional relationships, and the technical aspects of the performance venues. He also will collaborate on the design. Howard's recent work includes projects at the University of Houston, Indiana State University, Baylor University, the University of Miami, Loyola University and the Arizona State Music Building (with Michael Dennis).

William Reynolds, a principal of the Atlanta firm Smallwood, Reynolds, Stewart, Stewart & Associates, will serve as management principal. Reynolds, who has more than 30 years of experience in designing and directing a variety of project types, will be responsible for project management, production and construction administration, and will collaborate on design and programming. Reynolds' recent work includes the McEachern High School Performing Arts Center in Cobb County, the First Baptist Church of Atlanta and the Olympic Aquatic Center at Georgia Tech.

Associate Dean of Emory College Rosemary Magee, a member of the Architects Selection Committee and chair of the Arts Center Planning Committee, has been shepherding the arts center proposal through various presentation and approval processes for more than a year. "The combined expertise of this team," Magee said, "will allow us to develop an arts village concept that makes use of existing and new facilities to provide outstanding spaces for teaching, learning and performing."

Magee also cited Dennis' strong background in urban planning, campus master and precinct planning, and building design within a university environment. "His planning studies and building designs at Carnegie Mellon," Magee said, "have won him strong endorsement and high esteem among the faculty and administrators on that Hornbostel-designed campus," a reference to architect Henry Hornbostel, designer of Emory's original quadrangle buildings.

Dennis cited three issues that are critical to the architectural team: 1) The project is academically based and its academic vision is the root of the facility; 2) The Center will house a "community of departments" within a larger community; and 3) The project has a public component in a public area of the University and therefore will have importance both architecturally and academically. "Collectively," Dennis said, "I feel that we have what it takes to address all these issues."

Michael Howard said that it's not only the skills and experience of the team, but also its chemistry, that makes for a great combination. "Michael [Dennis] and I are old personal friends," Howard said, "and we've formed a new friendship with Bill Reynolds. The team fits together tremendously well."

Building an arts center has been a topic of community discussion for several years. President Bill Chace stressed the importance of an arts center to the Emory community during his inaugural address in 1995. "We must build a center for the performing arts; its absence has to be remedied, and remedied well," Chace said.

-Dan Treadaway

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