Design Award Winners (2023)

University of Arkansas Windgate Studio and Design Center

Project Overview

Perched along an active commercial corridor, the Windgate Studio + Design Center forms a distinct urban condition and a modern campus presence within a conventional suburban context. The new building anchors the corner of the district, shaping a new communal quad, and facilitating a meaningful partnership with the School of Architecture, a future district neighbor. The internal landscape, sheltered from the commotion of vehicular traffic, provides an environment of respite and a revitalization for students. As a community asset, the landscape links to a network of regional trails, bolsters ongoing redevelopment, and fosters ambitious regional arts initiatives.

The Windgate Studio + Design Center seeks to remove limitations through the creation of an open, flexible, and spatially rich environment. Studio spaces are tailored to provide the resources and characteristics necessary for students and faculty to fully realize their ambitions. Working environments are oriented to maximize access to daylight and capture views to the surrounding neighborhood and distant hills. The corrugated metal exterior evolves to veil openings with a precisely tuned grille, controlling glare while showcasing glimpses of the creative activity within. Individual disciplines are intermixed to encourage cross-disciplinary engagement and collaboration. A variety of embedded connective spaces create porous floor plates and a web of visual connections between disciplines and levels. These flexible hubs serve social and academic needs, provide space to study, to gather around food and drink, serve as gallery and critique space, support all school gatherings, and shape the facility as a home for students and faculty where all feel welcome.

The building cantilevers dramatically at the corner of MLK Blvd and Hill Avenue, forming a gateway to the district with an expression of invitation to students, faculty, and the Northwest Arkansas community. The taught exterior of the building is sculpted to interact with light and to create intriguing moments of transition, blurring the distinction between community, campus, and the School of Art. The entry plaza is carved from the corner, creating a dialogue between the city streetscape and the commons, the School’s social heart. In both building and landscape, stairways animate the experience and encourage connection. An amphitheater flows from the central quad, descending into lower-level ceramics studios. Open, internal stairs wind upward toward workspaces, and arrive at unexpected terraces - valued social spaces overlooking the district, the city, and the dramatic surrounding landscape.