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February 24, 2010

Snà¸hetta’s Wolfe Center for the Arts at Bowling Green State University

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The Wolfe Center for the Arts at Bowling Green State University in Ohio is scheduled to open in fall 2011. The center brings together the Universities fine arts programs that were once scattered across the campus into one dynamic and collaborative learning space. The building itself will offer an environment conducive to creativity and synergistic partnerships. The center will house theater, music, film, digital arts, design, sound, and dance. The generous, technologically advanced space will allow for classes, rehearsal and performances. It will offer the community an exceptional venue in which to see a wide range of performances.

Included in the space:

  • A 400-seat proscenium arch stage, designed to accommodate all types of theatrical and operatic performances
  • A 200-seat actor’s theater, with flexible seating that can be rearranged from a traditional layout, to multi-level, to stage-surround, and more
  • A black-box stage
  • A recording studio and editing bays

When the Snøhetta team visited Bowling Green to get a feel for the location, they looked at an aerial view of the campus and began thinking about how to blend an academic landscape with an agrarian one. The team was also intrigued by the fact that no one was using the large lawn adjoining the site of the future building, where the former Saddlemire Student Service Building was located. The architects wanted to find a way to revive the area and make it a prominent spot for people to gather.

“The Wolfe Center is an important project for us on a number of levels,” said Craig Dykers, a principal and founding member of the Oslo, Norway-based company. Cost was, of course, a factor in the design. “Working with a limited budget, we realized that the least expensive building form is a box.” But, expanding on that concept, the architects “took the lid off the box” to create the major structure of the building. “Life is made up of both the intuitive and unexpected and the predictable, and architecture can reflect this duality,” he observed.

For a performance space, an unusual aspect of the center is that the “back-of-house” functions are much more prominent than is typical, Dykers said. Glass hallways give views into the scene and costume shops, for example, so people walking through can have a sense of the activities in the building.

Like Snøhetta’s other buildings, the Wolfe Center will tell a story about its inhabitants and its place. As Dykers said, “A story draws on relationships in the landscape of place and projects these relationships onto the landscape of our mind.” This will be the first North American project completed by Snøhetta.

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