University of Arkansas Community Design Center Studio


The 3,100 sf tenant renovation for a design studio repurposes space in an atrium building. Renovations removed a warren of offices that covered large-scale windows, introducing two sculptural walls that animate the main studio in a saddlebag plan. The masonry building is complemented by an economy of lightweight interventions that promote visual porosity and a horizontally-organized work environment.

Project Statement

Project Statement

The 3,100 sf tenant renovation for an off-campus university-based design center repurposes space in a former bank building, now the Pryor Center. The 1975 building was designed as a block-long three-story bank with a full-height interior atrium on Fayetteville’s town square. The tenant space was stripped to the shell, uncovering original oak wood and brick while updating MEP systems. The design reclaims the muscular expression and openness of the masonry-clad building heavily influenced by the architecture of Louis Kahn. The existing space was covered by successive inferior tenant modernizations. Renovations removed the warren of offices (and their lay-in ceilings, carpets, and walls) that further subdivided the space and covered large-scale windows with views to the Ozark Mountain Plateau.

A minimal plan is made from the introduction of two sculptural walls that frame the main studio space in a saddlebag plan with flanking support spaces. The intervention reconciles the original building’s strong symmetry with the asymmetry of a conference room in appended tenant space and a kitchen/storage/service space on the opposite side. Visual continuity in this modest studio space is maintained through shared shelving dimensions between the two sculptural walls despite their tectonic differences. Both walls express a reverse solid-void relationship with one describing carving, and the other, assemblage. The original masonry building’s heaviness is complemented by an economy of contrasting lightweight interventions that promote visual porosity and a horizontally-organized work environment. The renovation recovers the diurnal cycle of natural light entering through the space from the east, and, later in the day, western light from the large-scale skylit atrium.

Studio products are curated for a public who circulates through this former banking hall located on the town square. The mixed-use building houses university outreach centers, art studios, restaurants, shops, topped by penthouse condominiums. The renovation reconfigures the interior as a storefront to showcase the studio’s work on the second floor of the atrium. New components—whether furniture, credenzas, reception desks, shelves and walls—are lightweight multi-purpose round-tube steel structures to promote visual porosity and continuity of intervention. This particular building is expensive to renovate given its 21-foot high volumes. MEP overhauls consumed 85% of the $750,000 budget. Custom made interior installations and furniture were not only more cost effective than off-the-shelf furnishings, but also scale better to the 21-foot high volume. Interestingly, the studio loft has become an entertainment space for University and School functions.

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