Warm, maple floors contrast with a metal mesh ceiling, small spotlights highlight pieces of art, and windows look onto galleries in a space embraced by a curving, weathered steel wall. Thanks to the efforts and vision of a number of people both on and off campus, the Fine Arts Center lobby has been given a brand new look and a more functional design.
In recognition of the transformation, the state chapter of the American Institute of Architects recently named the lobby renovation one of four recipients of the Honor Award Award, the institute’s highest recognition. This follows an Honor Award last fall by the local chapter. “The jury was very excited about the overall integrity of the project,” wrote the award presenters. The architects succeeded in “creating sense of infinite space and luxurious appointments, despite the small square footage and budget.”
Led by architect Michael Muse. AIA, of the Toledo firm The Collaborative Inc., and his colleagues Matt Clarkson and Lisa Crawford-Nusser (both BGSU alumni), the project took nearly three years of design and construction. BGSU’s team was led by Marc Brunner, project manager and architect, and included Dr. Katerina Rüedi Ray, director of the School of Art, and a steering committee of art faculty. “It was a highly collaborative effort,” Brunner said.
Students are pleased with the results. “It’s beautiful,” said Carrie Day-Fruth, a senior from Fostoria majoring in ceramics. “It has a nice flow that leads you into the gallery, and the lighting is better for displaying art and more appropriate for an art building.”
In addition to new display cases around the edges of the room, two pieces by seminal glass artist Dominic Labino have been reinstalled. Removing the old acoustical ceiling tiles gave a sense of volume to the room. “We were also able to build a permanent display case for 3-D art and for jewelry, Muse said.
While the Dorothy Uber Bryan and Hiroko Nakamoto galleries are well-lit, pleasant spaces holding striking displays of art, the gallery entry was not. “It was an oppressive space, with low ceilings and low lighting,” recalled Brunner. “It was not a monumental space that would complement the galleries.”
The planners faced several challenges. Working with a limited budget, they had to design a lobby that could also serve as a venue for opening receptions and for displaying student work or as an extension of the main gallery. In addition, some sort of screen was needed for the ramp leading into the galleries so that it did not become the backdrop for speakers at events there, Muse said.
The design solution was the curved wall, created of rusted “mild” steel. Its burnt orange color was achieved by sandblasting and washing it with salt water until it had reached the desired texture and color, he explained. Stylized cutout steel letters spelling out the gallery names and cast interesting shadows on the floor. “Hats off to Van Tassel Construction, our construction team, Muse said. “This was a very specialized custom installation, and they were always very accommodating.”