Vol Walker Hall at the University of Arkansas (Photo by Tim Hursley)
FAYETTEVILLE, Arkansas (November 7, 2016) – For the first time, design projects by Marlon Blackwell Architects have received Education Facility Design Awards in a program sponsored by the American Institute of Architects’ Committee of Architecture for Education.
One of the honored projects is the Vol Walker Hall renovation and Steven L. Anderson Design Center addition at the University of Arkansas. It received an Award of Excellence, one of six handed out.
Mr. Blackwell is the E. Fay Jones Chair in Architecture and a Distinguished Professor in the Fay Jones School of Architecture and Design. His firm’s two projects in Fayetteville were among 12 given marks of distinction in the 2016 annual awards program, and his was the only firm with multiple designs on this competitive list. All recognized projects were noted “for exhibiting design trends conducive to creating learning environments.”
The Vol Walker Hall renovation and Steven L. Anderson Design Center addition project, completed in 2013, is home to the Fay Jones School. Blackwell’s Fayetteville-based firm worked in collaboration with Polk Stanley Wilcox Architects.
The design features post-tensioned concrete and Indiana limestone, which honor the weight and substance of the historic structure, while the west-facing fritted glass brise soleil (sun breaker) and steel curtain wall create a contemporary figure. The overall design establishes a tangible discourse between past and present, while providing state-of-the-art facilities for 21st century architectural and design education.
“The project provides a beautiful, bold and respectful relationship to the original building both inside and out,” jury members said. “There is refinement and consistency to the detailing and an intentional contrast between the new interventions and the historic renovation. This is a very disciplined approach to scale, shape and color consistency. The studios appear incredibly flexible with little wasted circulation space. We see activity everywhere.”
The Fayetteville High School Addition and Renovation design received an Award of Merit, one of six such awards given. This 500,000-square-foot project, which was completed in phases over three years, was the city’s largest civic project in the past 50 years. Blackwell’s firm worked in collaboration with Hight Jackson Associates in Rogers and DLR Group, based in Overland Park, Kansas.
The school district asked the design team to strategically restructure its high school education program into a model with small learning communities. The project features greatly simplified circulation and improved security around a public entry plaza, as well as a pedestrian avenue that mediates between the first and second phases and the 85-foot change in topography across the site. The addition features abundant glass and overlooks a new landscaped street that creates a collegiate campus feel reflective of the school’s ties to the nearby University of Arkansas.
“The project strategically restructures the massive program into small learning communities,” jury members noted. “The buildings have an exceptional rigor that requires design discipline in its implementation [difficult to accomplish with such a large program]. The buildings frame the outdoor courtyards, providing an elegant backdrop to the exterior learning environments. The project feels collegiate, which is aspirational for a high school campus. It is ingenious in its planning, both in relationship to the existing building and to the new and rejuvenated exterior spaces.”
The Education Facility Design Awards highlight how, from early childhood facilities through those for higher education, architecture can be used to inspire learners, educators, administrators and campus communities alike. Working under this year’s theme, “Visioning and Re-Visioning,” the jury evaluated educational facilities across North America in order to find the most innovative designs. The high number of exceptional entries also indicates that the education design market has begun its recovery.
Blackwell has been a practicing architect for about 30 years, and founded Marlon Blackwell Architects in 2000. The firm now employs 10 designers, four of whom are Fay Jones School alumni.
About the Fay Jones School of Architecture and Design: The Fay Jones School of Architecture and Design at the University of Arkansas houses professional design programs of architecture, landscape architecture and interior design together with liberal studies programs. All of these programs combine studio design education with innovative teaching in history, theory, technology and urban design. A broad range of course offerings equips graduates with the knowledge and critical agility required to meet the challenges of designing for a changing world. Their training prepares students with critical frameworks for design thinking that also equip them to assume leadership roles in the profession and in their communities. The school’s architecture program was ranked 26th in the nation, and the 12th best program among public, land-grant universities, in the 16th Annual Survey of America’s Best Architecture and Design Schools, a study conducted in 2015 by the Design Futures Council and published in DesignIntelligence. For more information visit fayjones.uark.edu.
About the University of Arkansas: The University of Arkansas provides an internationally competitive education for undergraduate and graduate students in more than 200 academic programs.
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