Arkansas Arts Center


Architecture / Engineering
Interior Design


Mixed Use


38,000 SF


Arkansas Arts Center

A 30,000 SF addition establishes a new entrance to the Arts Center on the west side of the complex, which accesses a large atrium/reception space. The new main gallery is large enough to display a major exhibit. The addition also includes a new restaurant and kitchen, a drawings research center, new office space, library and conference rooms. The expansion of the Arts Center creates a distinctive arrival port for visitors while contextually blending with existing buildings with matching brick walls and cast stone copings. The profile of the gallery addition is stair stepped in such a manner as to lower the scale of the building’s mass by breaking the building into smaller visual proportions. In addition, this vertical cascading wall system allows for indirect daylighting of the galleries. This feature met the challenge of responding to the park environment of the site and minimizing the impact on the surrounding residential historic neighborhood.

Reorienting the front entry on a side street made a grand civic entrance possible without over shadowing the neighborhood. As an intellectual tourist attraction, it was important the entry identification become clarified and parking space and circulation minimized. The design of a tall stepped precast concrete portico that is reached via a tree-lined circular drive wrapping around a huge fountain met the owner's objective. Serving not only as a clue to the organization of the space and its function inside, the portico is a backdrop for the changing visual banners advertising current art shows and plays. The foyer and adjoining spaces are made of large, square bays cascading down to the park on the north side. The vault of each bay is wood-paneled and capped by monitors which flood the space with light, seamlessly connecting new and existing gallery space, a restaurant and gift shop, offices, collections vaults and an education lecture hall.