University’s new facilities include amenities for three departments, community
A four-year, $31 million construction project at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside in Kenosha has improved the school’s music, theatre and visual arts facilities for students and the community.
The 163,000-square-foot project focused on updating and improving the school’s Rita Tallent Picken Regional Center for Arts and Humanities through the addition of a new music hall and theater, as well as renovation of existing space.
Previously, the building’s general-use performance space failed to meet the needs of the school’s theatre and music departments, said D’Andre Willis, a principal and architect with HGA Architects and Engineers, Milwaukee.
“Frankly, it didn’t serve either very well anymore,” she said.
Through 72,000 square feet of new construction and 91,000 square feet of renovation, the project team developed a building that will meet the individual needs of both departments, as well as the school’s visual arts program.
New facilities include a 340-seat concert hall specifically designed for musical performances. The stage is large enough for a full orchestra and choir to perform at the same time.
There also is a 120-seat black box theatre specifically designed for theatrical performances.
Existing spaces were repurposed, as well. Old music practice rooms that lacked soundproofing were stripped down and turned into art studios. New practice rooms were designed for music students where sound does not bleed between rooms.
“We found creative ways to use the existing building and adapt it, Willis said, “rather than just throw it away.”
Challenges arose, however, in trying to blend old and new construction. From a design standpoint, Willis said, it was hard to find materials that would complement the existing color scheme and wood. Matching the bricks was another tricky, but critical component.
“You really can’t tell where the old brick ends and the new brick begins,” she said, “so that was a real win.”
And as crews began tying into the existing structure, said project manager David Voss III of Miron Construction Co. Inc., they found many unforeseen conditions to work around. Different mechanical, electrical and plumbing modifications made over the years were not on documents used for planning.
At times, Voss said, that meant taking a step back to understand what upgrades took place and why, and what effect those changes would have going forward. Sometimes it meant going back to the drawing board.
“We went to tie in the north addition and found out there were no existing footings where they were supposed to be,” Voss said.
As a result, crews ended up doing some deep excavation and designing some caissons, he said.
The result is a blend of old and new that provides much needed improved facilities for the school and surrounding community, said John Desch, UW-Parkside campus planner.
Not only is it a place for residents from the southeastern part of the state to attend student programs, Willis said, it also is attracting community groups who want to use the space for their own performances.
“This is something that is truly changing where the region can go for the arts,” he said.
— Tony Anderson