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Aesthetics are key to Mount Allison University arts centre

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by Patricia Williams

With excavation work underway, EllisDon is targeting completion for summer 2014 of Mount Allison University's Centre for the Arts, the first new academic building to be constructed since 1979 at the university campus in Sackville, New Brunswick.
Aesthetics are key to Mount Allison University arts centre

With excavation work underway, EllisDon is targeting completion for summer 2014 of Mount Allison University's Centre for the Arts, the first new academic building to be constructed since 1979 at the university campus in Sackville, New Brunswick.

With a slim profile and clad in the university’s traditional rose-coloured sandstone, the centre has been designed to create “a stunning new presence” at the campus’s north-west edge.

“The Centre for the Arts has been a dream at Mount Allison for nearly a decade,” said university president and vice-chancellor Robert Campbell. “This is a hugely exciting endeavour, and one of which we are very proud.”

Designed by the Zeidler Partnership Architects, the 50,000-square-foot centre features a large atrium with double-height ceilings linking three distinct spaces: the School of Fine Arts, housing contemporary art studios with facilities for painting, printmaking, sculpture, photography, and other media; a studio hall with reinforced floors, heightened ceilings, and controlled lighting; and a 100-seat black box theatre with cutting-edge sound and lighting.

The facility will also house office and seminar spaces. The atrium will serve both as an area to hold receptions and social events as well as a place for students to exhibit their work and meet to exchange ideas.

The two-storey building will be home to the fine arts and drama programs, which are currently spread throughout facilities across campus.

“For the first time, we are all going to be under one roof,” said Thaddeus Holownia, head of the Fine Arts department.

“It is going to move us forward to accommodate our curriculum in a contemporary way, with specialized classrooms, studios, and equipment.”

Construction costs are estimated at $18 million.

The building’s design was based on the recommendations of a team of university members, who worked with the Zeidler Partnership to detail the department’s needs and space requirements.

In addition to being functional, the design also is a good fit aesthetically with the campus, Holownia said.

“Providing for modern facilities that will serve the university community well for years, while being respectful of the past and campus look was no easy task, but we were determined to bring the two together,” said Zeidler Partnership senior partner Tarek El-Khatib, the project’s principal architect.

The project team includes associated architect Arthur J. Arseneau Ltd., structural engineers BMR Structural Engineering, mechanical engineers Crandall Engineering Ltd. and electrical engineers AEC Engineering Inc. Landscape architect is gh3 Inc. EllisDon is acting as construction manager.

From a construction perspective, EllisDon project manager Robert Dillabough said key challenges include maintaining access to the balance of the university grounds, given the centre’s strategic location, and keeping noise levels down.

“We’re building basically at the heart of the university,” he said.

The centre is scheduled to open in the fall of 2014.

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