Building to See Construction, Renovations
art department has some big plans on the drawing board.
Over the next few years, the building complex that includes the
Allen Memorial Art Museum and the College’s studio art facilites
will be renovated and expanded.
According to professor John Pearson, co-chair of the art department,
the demands placed on the College’s studio art facilities
have risen dramatically in the past few years, rendering present
“The drive for this project was the fact that studio courses
have increased exponentially in the past eight years or so,”
he said. “In the past five or six years, we’ve increased
[art] majors 250 percent.”
This has put a strain on the current art facilities and faculty,
Pearson said. The current space, adjoining the Allen Art Museum,
is already getting crowded. The problem will only get worse as the
art department hires new faculty to meet its growing needs.
The move to renovate the art complex is also motivated by aesthetic
concerns, largely because it is the first part of the College many
people see upon arriving on campus.
“The idea was also to create a more presentable face [for
the College],” Pearson said.
“Of course, all of this is going to be driven by money,”
Considering the College’s present budget crisis, that may
be a problem. Financial concerns have caused the team behind the
project to reconsider the scale of the project. They had originally
hoped to work on both the museum and the art department building.
Now, Pearson said, “although the decision is still not totally
made…[they are] leaning toward just the art department.”
The project began 18 months ago with hopes of completing construction
by 2005. Since then, however, the pace of the project has slowed,
and the time frame for its completion has been pushed back. Pearson
attributes this change to the new Science Center, which he says
has diverted energy from the project.
“Given that the science building took away a lot of attention
for this project…the energy was not really focused on this
new idea,” Pearson said. “I suspect it’s going
to [take until] at least 2005 or 2006, even for the first phase.”
That isn’t to say that nothing will happen in the meantime.
In fact, some changes are in store for the art building as soon
as next semester. Over Winter Term, the second floor of the building
will be renovated to house part of Oberlin’s cinema studies
The new building will be designed by the California-based architectural
firm of Fred Fisher OC ’71. So far, the design of the building
has yet to be finalized.
“At this point it’s still basically pie in the sky ,”
The art department is currently reviewing what form they want the
overall project to take. After they have informed Fisher’s
firm of their plans, the architects will come back with “blocking
designs” — rough diagrams of where various parts of
the buildings should be located.
The architect has already presented Oberlin with some plans. However,
those plans were rejected, partly because they would have eliminated
the courtyard at the center of the present complex.
Pearson recognizes that the architects face a challenge in designing
the new building.
“It’s a complex client,” he said. “[Fisher
and Associates] have to be sensitive to two architects of repute,”
referring to Cass Gilbert, who designed the Allen Art Museum, and
Robert Venturi, whose firm designed the 1977 addition.
Pearson is confident that the project will overcome such obstacles,
“It is my perception and the perception of my colleagues that
the Adminstration is dedicated to making this happen,” he