VCAM Building Wins National Education Facility Design Award
Haverford's new Visual Culture, Arts, and Media space in the repurposed Old Gym has been recognized by the American Institute of Architects' 2018 awards program for its innovative and sustainable design.
The American Institute of Architects (AIA) announced the winners of its 2018 Education Facility Design Awards, and one of its eight Awards of Excellence went to Haverford College's Visual Culture, Arts, and Media (VCAM) building. These awards, presented by the AIA and the Committee on Architecture for Education, honor the best school and college facilities in the world, celebrating state-of-the-art learning environments and how they enhance modern pedagogy.
The VCAM building, a complete renovation of the historic Old Gym in the middle of campus made possible by the successful Lives That Speak campaign, opened in September 2017 as a home for hands-on learning that builds visual literacy across the liberal arts. The space, which supports the new visual studies minor, serves as a lab for film and digital media projects; curatorial experimentation and arts exhibition; and fabrication, prototyping, and design. It also houses the John B. Hurford Center for the Arts and Humanities. Working with architects MSR Design, the campus reimagined the 118-year-old athletic space as an open and flexible learning environment made up of intersecting spaces designed for interpreting and making visual media.
"The AIA Educational Facility Excellence in Design award reflects the truly collaborative process through which VCAM came to life and the fluid interdisciplinary curriculum the space now engages," said VCAM Director and project lead Laura McGrane. "We're especially pleased that the adaptive and sustainable reuse of an old gymnasium at the center of Haverford's campus captured the imaginations of jurors evaluating well over 100 projects internationally."
The AIA Award of Excellence, which was given to MSR Design for the VCAM project, recognizes exemplary practice in five areas: enhancing the client's educational program, integrating functional needs and aesthetic considerations while respecting the surrounding community and context, the planning and design process, understanding the connection between the built and natural environment, and an integrated and holistic approach to sustainability.
In the jury's statement about why they recognized the VCAM building, the panel praised its ability to facilitate connections—across disciplines and media and between people—and its unified aesthetic. "It has a spatial richness that, while inserting a new series of program spaces within an historic building, retains the experience of a single unified space," they said.
Though its mission is forward-looking—preparing Haverford students for an ever-changing world in which digital and visual literacy are key for success—the VCAM facility also celebrates the past. Not only did the building's historic exterior remain, but many of its original elements have been repurposed into beautiful, useful details in the renovation, from a basketball court remade into patterned ceilings and floors to an old stairway's spindles recycled into legs for a table in the new community kitchen to gym lockers reused as the video-equipment checkout counter.
"The campus, and the entire generous Haverford community, can take tremendous pride in what we have accomplished through strong vision and collective generosity, all with an unwavering commitment to sustainability and preserving the aesthetic character of the campus at the core on Founders Green," said Haverford Vice President for Institutional Advancement Ann Figueredo '84, who spearheaded the fundraising effort for the VCAM renovations. "These awards confirm to the entire Haverford community that our greatest aspirations can turn into reality."
The AIA Education Facility Design Award of Excellence isn't the only honor that the new VCAM space received this year. Last month, International Interior Design Association's Northland Chapter honored MSR Design's work on the building at their "Fresh, Artistic, Brilliant" (or FAB) Awards, where it won both the education category and the overall grand prize. And, honors aside, the VCAM building is making changes to life on campus every day—inviting students to try filmmaking or curating an exhibit for the first time, encouraging faculty to add a visual component to a class, providing space for anyone to make a guitar or fork by hand, and so much more.
"Already, the campus energy has shifted—you see it in our students and faculty and the reactions of prospective applicants," said Figueredo. "VCAM signals a commitment to sustaining our relevance in a fast-changing world, helping our graduates prepare for the world they will enter with strong digital and visual literacy, firmly rooted in the traditional liberal arts disciplines."
"Fully realized, VCAM invites our students and faculty—and local community members—to think creatively about how we can visualize and revitalize the world around us through the arts, documentary and film, design, and dialogue," said McGrane. "That vision is one we can now share with institutions across the country as we think about how our educational spaces and goals speak to the lived environments we inhabit. We are humbled and grateful to our architects at MSR Design, our donors, our Board members and every member of the Haverford community who participated in the project."