Vol Walker Hall & the Steven L. Anderson Design Center
Architect: Marlon Blackwell Architects
Associate architect: Polk Stanley Wilcox Architects
Owner: University of Arkansas
Location: Fayetteville, Arkansas
At the University of Arkansas, in Fayetteville, this elegant restoration and modern addition has expanded studio, fabrication, and administrative facilities for the Fay Jones School of Architecture and Design. Uniting all of the school’s departments for the first time under one roof, this project strengthens its identity and fosters a collaborative, cross-disciplinary learning environment.
The project revolved around two main elements: renovation of the 1935 Vol Walker Hall, which has housed the campus library and design school since 1968; and insertion of the contemporary 37,000-square-foot Steven L. Anderson Design Center. To make room for the addition and provide a proper entry from the west, the design team excised unused stack spaces. The center is a modern complement to the hall’s neoclassical architecture. Its vocabulary resonates with its traditional counterpart through massing, proportion, and materials while still announcing the progressive design school within.
"The expanded facility unites all three departments – architecture, landscape architecture, and interior design – under one roof for the first time, reinforcing the School’s identity and creating a cross-disciplinary, collaborative learning environment." ~ Jury statement
The Indiana limestone cladding and steel windows of Vol Walker Hall, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, were meticulously restored. Inside, the renovation straddles a middle ground of classicism and minimalism, with white interior finishes providing seamless continuity into the addition. Connections old and new are revealed through glass-enclosed stairwells that bathe the central spaces with daylight.
Critical for design education, review and collaboration spaces are integrated throughout. A new 200-seat auditorium provides much-needed space for lectures and school events, while the center’s roof terrace and outdoor classroom offer sweeping views of the campus and surrounding landscape.
As the school navigates its fourth academic year in its new and renovated space, the project has already exerted its influence on students. Beyond serving as ideal models for historic preservation and contemporary design, the project has spurred a wealth of new collaborative curricula, interdisciplinary advanced design studios, and innovative research partnerships.
"Consistent orchestration of natural light and a sparse but powerful use of red to make landmark moments in the building is invigorating. " ~ Jury statement