Fine and Performing Arts Humanities Center – Jackson Brown Palculict Architects
- Written by: Matt Dodge
- Produced by: Sean O'Reilly
- Estimated reading time: 4 mins
The Center for Humanities, Arts, Rhetoric, Theater and Speech (CHARTS)is the newest addition to the Pulaski Technical College (PTC) campus in North Little Rock, Arkansas. Designed by Little Rock architecture firm Jackson Brown Palculict Architects, in partnership with Dallas-based Perkins+Will, the 87,000-square-foot complex is the largest construction project in the college’s history.
Designed to house classrooms, labs, studios, administrative offices and a 500-seat performance theater, CHARTS will allow PTC’s College of Humanities to better serve students pursuing degrees in the visual and performing arts.
The building includes art studios, a 3-D sculpture studio, music practice spaces and an administrative suite that will house faculty offices, but the real centerpiece of the project is the 500-seat auditorium. The multifunction space can be used for theatrical performances, as well as choral recitals, lectures and movie screenings and will give students hands-on training on both sides of the curtain.
“It has a full-blown working stage to serve as a teaching tool — they’ll be instructing students not just on performances, but also backstage operation, stage construction and management,” says Bunny Brown, AIA, LEED AP, projector manager on the PTC project and president of Jackson Brown Palculict Architects.
In addition to visual and performing arts facilities, the new facility will house classroom space for writing and math classes, a black box theater in the round for smaller-scale performances and an art gallery to showcase both student work and traveling exhibitions.
Founded in 1991 by the state of Arkansas along with 12 other regional vocational-technical schools, Pulaski Technical College is a two-year institution offering university transfer, career, technical and workforce education.
Construction on CHARTS began in September 2014 and was completed in time for the spring semester, opening in early January 2016. “From a construction standpoint it has progressed well. We’ve worked closely with the construction manager throughout the process and have a good working relationship with the college and the design team — that certainly made things go a lot smoother,” says Brown.
While the building has yet to be used by PTC students, the project team made sure to include stakeholders throughout the design and construction process and the early reviews have been encouraging. “The dean of the College of Humanities and the physical plant staff have been involved throughout,” says Brown. “All the feedback has been very positive from aesthetics to materials. The true test will be once the teachers are teaching and performances are being performed.”
While an arts facility as extensive as CHART isn’t the norm at technical colleges across the country, PTC president Margaret A. Ellibee says that the arts are an important part of any education. “Our students come to us with aspirations to enhance their lives and careers through education. Education in the arts is foundational to these aspirations as surely as technical training. Art nurtures the whole person,” she says.
Acoustic expertise on show
The Center was constructed by Little Rock-based CDI Construction using the Construction Manager at Risk (CMAR) model, ensuring that the project came in on budget; an especially important factor when dealing with public sector work such as a taxpayer-funded technical college. “This wasn’t a blank check job. As a team, we worked hard to achieve our goals economically and within an established budget,” says Brown. “There were certain materials and construction methods that were studied extensively with the construction team to achieve these goals.”
It was also important to the project team that the new CHARTS fit within PTC’s established institutional aesthetics. To that end, the Center integrates brick, metal and glass elements found on many other buildings on the campus. “The campus had a pretty strong material palette and while we didn’t copy it, we did use components that complemented it. It ties into the existing school campus well,” explains Brown.
Serving a range of customers from institutional clients such as PTC to residential, retail, healthcare and hospitality clients, CHARTS did not present Jackson Brown Palculict Architects with many new challenges, though it did require the firm to contract a number of very specific design professionals including theater design consultants Schuler Shook, which collaborated on the theatrical rigging and lighting for the 500-seat auditorium.
The building’s auditorium, choral practice rooms and piano labs allowed Jackson Brown Palculict to showcase its talent for delicate acoustical work. “The entire team has the necessary expertise and we were very sensitive to acoustics throughout the whole design and construction process,” says Brown. “We made sure all the sound isolation areas were constructed properly. The construction manager was also experienced in that type of construction. It’s something that has to be followed through on from initial concept design to completion.”
Architecture to inspire
The project is pursuing LEED certification, with the goal of earning LEED Certified status through the use of energy-efficient engineering systems, water conservation and natural lighting wherever possible. The project team hired commissioning agents to oversee the LEED certification process and contracted out mechanical, electrical, plumbing, structural, civil, landscape and interiors design to a number of trusted firms.
Based in Little Rock, Jackson Brown Palculict is licensed in several states and has completed projects from Seattle, WA to Albany, NY to Destin, FL. “We have a very high repeat client rate and that is what brings us to some of these more distant states. We don’t generally actively pursue jobs in New York or Washington, but when our clients ask us, we’ll certainly comply,” says Brown.
As the facility nears completion, Brown reflects back that, above all, it was a job that showcases the firm’s ability to work collaboratively. “I feel like it was a successful endeavor overall, but that was due to multiple team members; it certainly wasn’t all me,” he says.
With state-of-the-art facilities, including dedicated studio space and a 500-seat auditorium, CHARTS, designed by Jackson Brown Palculict and Perkins+Will, will serve as an incubator in central Arkansas for the visual artists and performers of tomorrow.
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