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Tuesday, April 16, 2024
The Eagle

Seniors tour Katzen

Ten AU seniors toured the Katzen Arts Center on Thursday to see the 130,000-square-foot space, which includes their class gift - a student lounge on the second floor.

"[In] the senior lounge area there will be a two-story glass space, seating, and you will be able to look all the way down the corridor to the rotunda space," intern architect Onyel Gibson said. "You'll have both a beautiful view of outdoors to Massachusetts Avenue and into the building as well."

Gibson led the visitors, who were the first students to respond to an offer posted on Today@AU regarding the tour. The students toured the three-floor arts center, which is on schedule to be "substantially" complete by March 2005. Moving in will take place over the summer and it will open in August or September, Gibson said.

A majority of Class of 2005 members voted to donate the class funds to one of the three student lounges in the Center, rather than a new scoreboard for Reeves Field or other gifts, The Eagle reported Sept. 9. The class will give $50,000 for the lounge and $10,000 to Bender Library.

The Class of 2005 lounge will be on the north side of the second floor, near the faculty offices and studios for subjects like graphics, drawing, painting, etching and lithograph. The other student lounges on the floor will immediately surround the building's rotunda.

The rotunda space, which can be seen from the Class of 2005 lounge, will be 90 feet in diameter with a three-story ceiling, Gibson said. The rotunda will be a hub within the arts center, according to the Katzen Arts Center Web site, www.american.edu/katzen.

"[The] rotunda space is also like sort of a mini amphitheater. You can have a speaker [there] or a performer and up above there will be a railing, so people could stand up above or sit on the stairs and there will be a lot of natural light from the skylight," Gibson said.

The design of the Center is meant to allow for a lot of natural light, according to Gibson.

"We have a lot of glass to kind of keep the viewers of the artwork connected to the outside," Gibson said. The glass around the galleries has ultraviolet filtering, which will prevent the artwork from being damaged, Gibson added. Also, the 24 private graduate student studios will feature either windows or skylights.

However, the Center will provide space to work for more than just Department of Performing Arts students, Gibson said.

"There will be some kind of site furniture [in the plaza] where you can sit and read a book or do some work," Gibson said. "It's still close to campus, yet secluded. I like this space."

Also outdoors will be a sculpture garden that will include plants, outdoor seating, and special lights.

"The light fixtures will shine against the wall and then the light will bounce back against the building to make the building appear to glow," Gibson said. "The lighting was designed by Claude Engle, who has done well-noted projects, like the Statue of Liberty in New York City and the Louvre in Paris."

Other projects of Engle's include the Reichstag in Berlin in 1999, the World Trade Center in New York in 1973, and the Vietnam Memorial, National Gallery of Art and Kennedy Center in D.C.

The sculpture garden will be located on the side of the arts center near Ward Circle. The three floors of gallery space will also be located on this side. The galleries will feature work from faculty and students, as well as artists such as Pablo Picasso, Marc Chagall and Andy Warhol, according to the AU Web site.

In addition to the sculpture garden, the first floor of Katzen will also feature a box office, sculpture, ceramic, painting and other arts studios, and 16 music practice rooms.

"There has been some attention to the acoustics of the rooms, but I don't think they'll be soundproof," Gibson said. "But the choice of location is together so they won't disturb the art history students or DPA; they have a couple of classes where they just show slides, so we wouldn't want to disturb them."

The first floor will also include a recital hall with seating for 200 and an experimental theater. The stage floors will be wooden and springy for optimal dance performances, Gibson said.

"The recital hall will be just music performances, and the Greenberg Theatre is for mostly theater. We also have a theater rehearsal studio here, but that's more like black box, student performances, impromptu kind of things," Gibson said.

The Greenberg Theatre opened on Wisconsin Avenue in late March 2003. The $5 million raised for the theatre was in part from a major donation by Harold and Sylvia Greenberg, The Eagle previously reported.

Katzen will cost about $48 million, according to Gibson. The "A new AU" $200-million fund-raising campaign that began last year aimed to raise $30 million for the arts center, though a donation from Dr. Cyrus and Myrtle Katzen also makes the construction possible, The Eagle reported last fall.

The Center will provide the space for visual and applied arts and performing arts students and faculty to work in the same area. Currently, the various programs and classes are held in different buildings on campus.

"The idea was to combine all the arts into one building, which a lot of other schools don't have the space for," Gibson said.

Holder Construction, the company building Katzen, has built other educational spaces, such as the Schwartz Center for Performing Arts at Emory University in Atlanta, The Eagle reported July 12. However, the Center is unique, according to Gibson.

"It's huge. I think that it's one of a kind, especially because you have the huge gallery as an anchor on Ward Circle," Gibson said.

Some of the students on the tour said they were pleased with what they saw of the Center.

"It's very impressive. It was great to see," said Scott Polisky, a senior in Kogod. Polisky said he wanted to tour the building, even though he won't be at AU when it opens. "I wanted to see the expansion of the University and see what we're capable of in the near future. It's always good for alumni to see it, as well."

An alumni event revolving around the Center will likely be held during Homecoming Weekend, according to an Office of Development staff member. The Office of Planning and Development may also tours, like those offered during Family Weekend.


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