The campus of SUNY Fredonia in western New York boasts a collection of austere modern buildings designed by I. M. Pei in the late 1960s. Deborah Berke & Partners Architects has been engaged to expand the Rockefeller Arts Center, home to the visual and performing arts departments, in a manner sympathetic to, but not mimicking, Pei’s work.
“If Pei’s buildings were primarily concrete with glass and steel appointments, in our addition we’ve inverted the formula, designing primarily in glass and steel with concrete appointments,” said Maitland Jones, a partner with the firm. The 60,000-square-foot addition includes three new dance studios, sculpture and ceramics facilities, new media labs, and a new public entrance. “The Pei building really privileged access from the campus, and didn’t anticipate the public role of the building,” he said. “We’re seeking to bring that into balance, creating an entrance for people who are less familiar with the place.”
As the original 160,000-square-foot building became overcrowded, many in-between spaces became overly programmed. The architects hope the expansion will allow the hallways, staircases, and lobbies to return to their more spontaneous, un-programmed condition, where creative interactions can happen organically.