Building A New Addition

As spring of 2011 approaches, Simpson College is in the middle of the construction of an addition to the performing arts center on the Simpson campus.  The facility is the home to Theatre Simpson productions and Theatre Department and to Music at Simpson operas during the school year, and to the Des Moines Metro Opera each summer.  This renovation has a long history.  Nearly a decade ago, in April of 2001 then Academic Dean Bruce Haddox called me into his office.  It seems that the May Term class that I had proposed had not received enough enrollment to be offered. While that meant that I would not be teaching a May term class, my academic load was figured on the assumption that I would teach a course during May term.  Therefore, I owed Simpson and the Dean had a task for me to perform during May as a form of retribution.  I was to create a document describing the spaces needed to be added to the existing Blank Performing Arts Center in order for that facility to be home to both the Theatre program (which it already was although there was only one small classroom and insufficient existing office space) and for the Art program (which was then and still his housed in an old converted Carnegie library building and in several other odd spaces on campus).  I spent the 3 weeks of May term pouring over NAST and NASAD documents, meeting with department of Theatre and Art Faculty and Chairpersons, and writing and editing the document.  I submitted the complete Building Program for the projected facility on May 21 2001.

As it came to pass, the administration eventually dropped the idea of a combined Theatre/Art Arts center following a series of campus planning consultations and lukewarm enthusiasm for the idea on the part of both the Art and the Music departments.  The Theatre portion of the project was resurrected around 2005.  The original Building Program document was adapted (mostly through redaction) and became the building program for what has come to be known as the BPAC Addition.

Following is the text of the first page of the redacted original 2001 document:

List of General Goals:

  1. A. Provide Art Department with classroom and laboratory (studio) space sufficient to accommodate current and projected curricular and co-curricular programs for current and projected enrollment and to meet the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD) accreditation standards.
  2. Provide Theatre Department with classroom and laboratory (studio) space sufficient to accommodate current and projected curricular and co-curricular programs for current and projected enrollment and to meet the National Association of Schools of Theatre (NAST) accreditation standards.
  3. Provide Art and Theatre Department faculty with office and office support spaces adequate to the functions of research and professional growth, advising, mentoring, and the directing of departmental and divisional administrative tasks and in line with offices provided to faculty across the Simpson College campus.
  4. Create classroom space sufficient for both Art and [the] Theatre Departments, as well as for academic class use for the larger Simpson College community.
  5. Increase the flexibility of performance spaces to accommodate more efficient and increased use of Pote theatre for projected Performance Arts Series, continued and increased non-departmental Simpson College, departmental, and administrative uses as well as outside rentals, and DMMO summer occupancy.
  6. Achieve ADA compliance for all spaces in new construction and in existing BPAC.
  7. Provide aesthetically pleasing interior design and exterior architecture that unifies the existing BPAC structure with the architectural aesthetic of the larger Simpson College campus and provides recognizable entry points and results in a structure that celebrates the visual and performing arts.

Following these general goals was a section outlining some strategies for achieving those goals (Section II), a listing of the necessary facilities (Section III), and expanded room-by-room description of the features including size of the necessary facilities (Section IV) a listing of the existing facilities (Section V) and a room-by-room description of the features, including size, of the existing facilities

This document was provided to the Architects.  Presumably they read it, although some of the objectives will not be completely met by the new facility, my entire faculty and I are enthusiastic about the new spaces.

We broke ground in mid-July.  My colleagues tapped me as the Departmental representative on the construction team.  This has meant weekly building update meetings ever since and having to make countless decisions and catch a number of potentially significant errors in judgment that if left unchecked, could have severely crippled the new facility.

That’s all for now. More about the construction the next time.

Have fun (after all, they don’t call it a play for nothing).  But be safe!

SJM

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