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Steven Holl to Design Franklin & Marshall Visual Arts Center in Lancaster

The 4-story structure will include studios and a public gallery

A historic liberal arts college in Lancaster has nabbed a big-time architect to design its new Visual Arts Building.

Franklin & Marshall College announced earlier this week that Steven Holl Architects has been commissioned to design the arts building, which will house various studios, a public gallery, a lecture hall, and film screening labs.

"There's been great excitement on all parts," senior partner Chris McVoy told Curbed Philly after the announcement. "It's going to be an expression of a kind of new life at that part of the campus, which is currently undervalued part on the south side. It's going to be a real draw for students of all disciplines."

The firm, which has designed a long list of arts centers and museums throughout the world, was selected by the liberal arts college after a months-long international search. McVoy says Franklin & Marshall approached their firm and a long list of others last year. In January, Steven Holl was selected as the finalist.

Franklin & Marshall is a historic college that features many classic colonial and Gothic Revival-style buildings, including its oldest structure, Old Main. Although McVoy says they "respect greatly" and studied the original buildings, they wanted to design something that stood as a symbol for the college's future.

"We decided that since this new building is for the creatives, it should be light weight, airy, and open in comparison to the masonry of the historic buildings on campus," McVoy explained.

The end result is a kite-like, four-story structure that will include a glass-enclosed forum in the center of the ground floor and a storm-water reflecting pool. The design, in fact, was inspired by the surrounding foliage.

"The trees have been there before even the first building," says McVoy. "So in a way, we’re making a deep historical connection to the context of the campus—not to the buildings, but to the trees."

The forum through the ground level also serves to connect the campus to Buchanan Park, a public green space.

In total, the 35,000-square-foot building will be double the size of the current Herman Arts Building, which will be demolished. McVoy says they have one more year to finalize the conceptual plans and hope to begin construction sometime in 2017.