Today, New York-based Peterson Rich Office (PRO) unveiled and broke ground on the summer’s newest arts space (in a year that has seen plenty of them); the Davison Art Gallery on the campus of Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut. The gallery is the first new art building to rise on the Wesleyan campus since the completion of the Kevin Roche-designed Center for the Arts in 1973.
The 5,500-square-foot building will create a new home for the Davison Art Center, founded in 1952, which currently lacks adequate space to display its 25,000-piece-strong collection. The Davison Art Center moved into the Olin Memorial Library in 2019, but the new gallery will provide space to exhibit that work as well as create a multidisciplinary learning space for visual arts students.
“The new gallery presents an opportunity to expand the visual arts from the iconic Kevin Roche-designed Center for the Arts to the very heart of the campus,” said PRO founders Nathan Rich and Miriam Peterson in the project’s announcement. “The building is deliberately designed for interdisciplinary learning and to expose a range of students to this renowned collection.”
The new building will be slotted between the McKim, Meade & White-designed Olin Memorial Library and Public Affairs Center, necessitating a long, narrow, recessed building accessible at both ends that won’t necessarily be visible until approached. At the main entrance facing Church Street, PRO has designed a glass-walled lobby space topped with a bowed awning—the contrast between glass and red brick on either side is immediately apparent. For the stone portion, PRO chose large blocks of Indiana limestone to help the new gallery dialogue with the base of the adjacent library.
Wesleyan, who chose PRO as the winner of a competition to design the new building in June of 2019, is also touting the project’s projected environmental bona fides. According to the university, the Davison Art Gallery, in line with Wesleyan’s 2016-2021 Sustainability Action Plan, will have a green roof, solar panels, radiant in-flooring heating and cooling, lighting driven by occupancy sensors, and a low maintenance landscape with native plants that will act as a testbed for the rest of the campus.
Although the gallery is PRO’s first ground-up educational project, the Brooklyn-based studio is no stranger to designing airy art spaces. When AN caught up with PRO last May, we ran through the important use of light in each of their projects, from high-end residential work to the Galerie Perrotin in Manhattan, as well as the experience Rich and Peterson gained from their time at Steven Holl Architects and Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects, respectively.
PRO is working with New Haven-based Newman Architects, who is serving as architect of record. According to Wesleyan, Newman has worked on a number of other projects on campus such as the ongoing restoration of the Public Affairs Center. Construction of the Davison Art Gallery is expected to be complete sometime in the summer of 2023, and open to students in the spring 2024 semester.