Project: Mesa Community College Performing Arts Center | Mesa AZ
Firm: Jones Studio | Phoenix AZ
Five years ago our design team started working with Mesa Community College(MCC) as they looked to turn a derelict, five-plex movie house on the edge of campus into their new Performing Arts Center. We learned music and theatre students came to MCC to be the best they can be, and the new space was to cultivate their drive and dedication. Furthermore, families of MCC trained artists exist in the surrounding community, and they frequently return to campus to lead and teach the next generation of musicians and performers. MCC wanted and deserved a landmark to give the music and theatre program an enduring public face and identity, and a permanent home for performances. Program objectives included: a 450-seat performance hall with variable acoustics to support symphony, choir, band, jazz, percussion, and voice; an informal outdoor space for impromptu performances; a lobby ‘living room’ to facilitate creative interactions and exchanges; practice rooms and rehearsal spaces to support learning; and most importantly an effortless transparency between students and faculty, so interaction and recruitment starts when students walk through the front door. The result is a 44,000 square foot facility (19,500 new / 24,500 repurposed) that has exceeded MCC’s expectations. In addition to surpassing the program objectives, we strived to provide the school with a unique story through the building’s elements. Influential music selected by MCC is reflected in structural patterns, repurposed ornaments, lighting, and finishes. Exceptional moments, such as the entry courtyard carved from an existing theatre, continue the story.
Design is Rhythm. Each of the patterns within the new masonry, exterior ornament, interior lighting, tile, and carpet – are developed as visual expressions of influential music derived in early programming meetings by MCC faculty and staff. We found the variety of styles – Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue, Mozart’s Cosi Fan Tutti, YYZ by Rush – to reflect the diversity of the college’s character. Shaw Contract Group Gradient carpet tile and broadloom designed in a custom layout continues the dynamism of the musical motif in the building interior. The monolithic pattern and bold colors within the Gradient line provide a high contrast backdrop and a holistic composition to the building. In addition, the product’s economical pricing allowed for customization within the modest project budget. The color red, as found in historic theatre upholstery, drapery, and carpet, is installed throughout the building, giving a richness to both practice and performance spaces. A pattern of Rhapsody in Blue’s rhythm and pitch folds its way down the bleacher stair in the lobby. The instrumental classroom’s flooring layout mimics orchestra performers’ positions and uses a neutral tone where the carpet will take the most wear. Red carpet rolls down the ‘grand staircase’ that leads to the performance hall, continuing the drama and intrigue. The inherent flexibility within Shaw Contract Group Gradient allowed the design team to continue the diversity and excitement that inspired this Performing Arts Center and the durability will allow the space to be enjoyed for years to come.