District Five Fine Arts Center, Spartanburg School District 5

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Awarded: Association for Learning Environments (A4LE, formerly CEFPI), Excellence in Design Honor Award, 2011

Celebrating the arts with dedicated spaces to encourage creativity and expression became an increasingly important goal to Spartanburg School District Five. Available land and a physical connection to Byrnes High School provided an excellent location for students and the community.

At 50,000 SF, the Fine Arts Center includes a 1,000-seat auditorium. The stage accommodates musical and theatre performances with supporting spaces such as dressing and storage rooms. A band room for 200 is flanked by practice and small assembly spaces along with instrument and uniform storage areas, supporting an award-winning band program.

Entry into the building provides a lobby for receptions and congregation, but also serves as exhibition space for student art. Sunshades and a curvilinear exterior of glass, brick, and cast stone bring a sense of scale to the large volumes of space needed for assembly. The structure fits securely on the tight site, connects directly, yet can be closed off for community use and blends well with the existing buildings on the high school campus.

Our design team worked closely with the client and user groups. Integral to the design process were theater design and audio consultants who helped us attend to issues of acoustics, lighting, sight line analysis, and stagecraft. All key users, especially the honorable band director, worked in harmony to outline best practices in all details of accommodation. In the end, the Fine Arts Center celebrates the art of collaborative design.

A predominantly closed facility, the public areas are as open as possible to invite daylight during working hours and an evening glow for performances. The lobby is both a circulation space and an art gallery, and it connects discreetly to the main hallway to the practice arena. The Center’s activities celebrate the integration of arts education within the overall structure and aspiration of secondary education.