The Creation of a new School for the Arts at Utah Sate University was emblematic of the desire of individual faculty members and administrators to create a vibrant, multi-disciplinary environment where cross-fertilization of ideas and learning could be greatly enhanced. In this same spirit, Sasaki provided interdisciplinary services to the university comprising Urban Design, Architecture and Landscape Architecture to make the USU Arts Campus a reality.
The plan envisioned renovations, additions and new buildings articulated around new and existing plazas and courtyards. The first building implemented following the plan for the Arts District, the Manon Caine Russell/Kathryn Caine Wanless Performance Hall, is flanked by an entry plaza located at the gateway to the Arts precinct. The building combines the high acoustical qualities associated with world-class music venues and music instruction spaces for students.
An orthogonal concrete shell with 18-inch thick concrete walls encloses the main performance space whose height, shape and materials were carefully considered for optimum sound qualities. A contrasting zinc panel-coated entrance pavilion has origami-like folded volumes that suggest a melding of the man-made and the natural precise architectural geometry that also recalls primordial tectonic forces that formed the surrounding Bear River Mountains. By day triangular skylights angle light into interior spaces; at night the pavilion faces the outdoor piazza and is dramatically lit, highlighting playful splayed columns in a pattern suggesting musical notes. To lend a sense of procession and ritual consistent with the universitys heavy commitment to arts education, Sasakis Landscape Architecture group conceived an entry precinct with an alle of native trees and a series of pea stone fields that lead from one of the main campus portals into the new piazza.
As part of a master plan anticipating strong University growth in the next decade, Sasaki forged a process to articulate a vision for a cross-discipline Arts District. This vision created strong interior connections between departments as well as vibrant meeting places at the caf, galleries, and open media studios that would allow for the essential exchange of ideas between departments, professors, students and the public.