Design Award Entries

Windgate Center for Fine & Performing Arts

The University of Central Arkansas Windgate Center for Fine and Performing Arts is one of the only higher education buildings in the country to combine fine and performing arts education programs in one facility. The center provides classroom, studio, rehearsal, gallery and performance spaces – creating a beacon for the arts, with a new synergy with fine and performing arts within UCA and arts patrons across Central Arkansas.

Project Statement

WER Architects, Pfeiffer, and H+N Architects teamed together to design a center poised to unite the arts at the University of Central Arkansas with modern facilities that foster interdisciplinary and cross-disciplinary collaborations, as well as support for the quantitative and qualitative needs of visual arts, music, film and theatre.

Spread across campus, the Arts programs on the UCA campus were housed in six different buildings. The Windgate Center for Fine and Performing Arts merges the majority of those spaces into one facility; creating a single, synergistic home for the arts on campus, and a new northern gateway onto the UCA campus. Visual Arts, Theatre and Music are now able to come together through education, exhibition, performance, production, and community outreach under one roof. The Windgate Center is fostering a place where students can pursue their discipline at the highest level in state-of-the-art facilities, while allowing for artistic serendipity, creating a forum for interaction between teacher and student, between the varied arts disciplines and between the school and surrounding community.

The Windgate Center promotes inter-disciplinary work, emphasizing openness and connectivity. The building supports the next generation of education, while also providing a place for students to build their community. The Arts Commons, a through-lobby connecting two entry points, is a focal point of artistic display, pedagogical interaction and daily student life. The social stair at the center of this space connects the two floors of the building and provides a place for casual hangout or impromptu discourse, while a second-story bridge spans the space. A gallery opens out into the space, while an array of flexible performance spaces—the concert hall, black box and choral room—spill out into the Arts Commons to activate it during the day and evening.

Housing 2D and 3D arts studios, as well as a student gallery/critique space, student work rooms and labs, and instruction spaces under one roof while sharing common spaces and infrastructure is efficient and fosters chance interactions among students and faculty. 2D studio art spaces for drawing, painting, printmaking, sculpture and ceramics, as well as 3D arts, graphic design and photography are all appointed with the latest in safety and technology for students to explore, experiment, and find their singular voice. Each space is celebrated for the unique art that is created within it – using daylighting to enhance the spaces naturally. Dramatic accent colors on walls and floors celebrate the arts and act as wayfinding throughout the facility.

The Windgate Center also contains new major music spaces for the university, including a state-of-the art 450-seat concert hall, percussion suite, a rehearsal/recital hall and practice rooms. The concert hall, the only open-room, open-concert venue in Central Arkansas, is enveloped in warm Doug-Fir veneer and Glu-Lam beams that highlight and accent the stage and audience chamber. The Glu-Lam structure defines the character of the space and also supports theatrical lighting and reflectors. The acoustic volume is defined by custom made ground faced and shaped masonry units, which serves as the primary structural system and a diffuse surface to enhance acoustics. The concert hall is home to the Department of Music’s various ensembles such as band, choir, chamber and jazz, as well as the Conway Symphony Orchestra.

The Theater component includes a new flexible 0 to 180-seat Black Box Theater, a 3,500 sq ft. scene shop and the needed support spaces. By utilizing utilitarian elements, it was possible to maximize the economy of the project while enriching the architecture. This space will also be the premier venue for the Arkansas Shakespeare Theatre summer festival, which is hosted in Conway each year.

The Windgate Center is designed to achieve a balance between function and beauty in an open collaborative environment; it promotes and celebrates inclusion and diversity of thought and expression. The exterior aesthetic of the Windgate Center aims to do the same, bringing together two sympathetic yet contrasting factors – the traditional elegance of UCA’s campus and the exuberant expression of the arts programs within. The Windgate Center is truly a place to celebrate art in all its forms.