Easton, PA | 7,000 SF
The Arts Plaza at Lafayette College is a raw, open-air space for the arts. This distinctive space was envisioned as an outdoor black box that can host a wide array of planned and spontaneous artistic endeavors, including performance art, visual art exhibits, and small-group musical performances. The structure actually transforms an abandoned auto repair facility into a dynamic outdoor teaching space that responds to the built and natural environment of which it is part.The Arts Plaza was built as an urban infill project on a site that spans the Bushkill Creek, part of the confluence of waterways that define the City of Easton. While the site’s previous building had solid walls that proved an effective barrier between the creek’s environment and the community, the new Arts Plaza literally deconstructs these barriers to connect people and nature. The existing building was distilled to its essence; a platform and a timber structure. New masonry monoliths rise out of the plaza and echo the rhythm and scale of the neighboring Williams Visual Arts Building. A delicately detailed steel frame armature, iron gates, and vegetated mesh screens further define the space. The project is an exercise in multiple connections: between Lafayette College, the site, its urban context, and nature.
The Plaza utilizes the site’s unique location above the creek to connect the users to the creek through an oculus cut into the floor slab. The oculus frame was fabricated from steel harvested during the demolition of the existing building, an act to reinvigorate the new with the old. The oculus also amplifies the sound of the bubbling creek below into the space for multi-sensory communication between the Plaza and its natural environment.
As part of the site’s transformation, the east wall of the existing building was completely removed to allow views to the water from within the Plaza. The multiple types of transparency in the west wall further open the creek views to pedestrians passing by on the sidewalk. Visually, the site’s design attempts to draw attention to the confluence of many types of space (university, urban, natural) and to further enhance the connections created by the Plaza itself.