Temple Times Online Edition
    JANUARY 27, 2005
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Architect selected for Tyler building

Carlos Jimenez of Houston will design the art school’s new home on Main Campus

Carlos Jimenez

Award-winning architect Carlos Jimenez of Carlos Jimenez Studio in Houston, designer of some of the country’s premier art education facilities and exhibition spaces, has been signed to design Temple’s new Tyler School of Art building on Main Campus.

The $75 million project will relocate Tyler from its current campus in Elkins Park. The world-class facility, incorporating a variety of art-related spaces including studios, workshops and exhibition galleries, is expected to be completed in 2007.

Jimenez, recognized nationally for his designs of urban educational facilities, will design Tyler’s signature building in a joint venture with H2L2 Architects/Planners, a Philadelphia-based firm specializing in the design of academic buildings.

“Carlos Jimenez’s unique approach to designing spaces in which to create, study and appreciate art is a perfect fit for our internationally renowned art school,” President David Adamany said in announcing the partnership. “We are excited to work with such a respected architect and are confident that he will create an inspiring new home for Tyler that will both encourage our students and foster their creativity and artistic expression.”

“Tyler is one of the finest art schools in the country,” said Jimenez, owner and principal in charge of design at Carlos Jimenez Studio and tenured professor at Rice University School of Architecture. “Relocating this vibrant coalition of artists and students from their suburban setting to a new urban site is a pioneering opportunity.

“I imagine a democratic place whose rich student life harnesses each and every available space,” Jimenez added. “My hope is that we design a state-of-the-art building that nurtures and challenges everyone who comes to work and learn in its premises; a building that will bring further recognition and visibility to the school.”

A native of Costa Rica who moved to the United States in 1974, Jimenez is recognized as one of the country’s top young architects. His works include some of the country’s premier art education facilities and exhibition spaces, including the Peeler Art Center at DePauw University in Indiana, the Spencer Studio Art Building at Williams College in Massachusetts and the Glassell Junior School of Art for the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.

Jimenez’s designs have garnered numerous honors including multiple awards from Architecture Magazine and Architectural Record. A current member of the prestigious Pritzker Architecture Prize Jury, Jimenez has also served as a juror and visiting critic at universities and cultural institutions throughout North and South America and Europe.

The new Tyler facility, to be constructed at 12th and Norris streets, will join the Boyer College of Music and Dance and the School of Communications and Theater on the northeast corner of the campus in what Adamany referred to as a “mini arts campus.”

“The addition of Tyler to the Main Campus will generate new creative opportunities among the fine and performing arts,” Adamany said. “Not only the university but our surrounding communities and the entire city will benefit from having Tyler’s 120 faculty and nearly 800 students teaching, learning and creating in North Philadelphia.”

The new Tyler School of Art is a key component of a more than $400 million facilities improvement program planned at Temple over the next several years, including plans for an expansion of The Fox School of Business and Management and a new School of Medicine.

University officials, recognizing that Tyler’s existing physical plant in Elkins Park would require extensive renovation to serve the school into the 21st century, determined that relocating Tyler into a signature building on Main Campus would enhance campus life and build upon Temple’s outreach to local neighborhoods and the city’s cultural organizations.

Acting Tyler Dean Hester Stinnett said the new facility will provide instructional and creative studios, galleries and exhibition space for the school’s full array of B.F.A. and M.F.A. programs in fine and design arts, as well as administrative and faculty offices.

Founded when benefactor Stella Elkins Tyler donated her Elkins Park estate to Temple, Tyler has grown from its first freshman class of 12 students in 1935 to offering B.F.A., B.A., B.Arch., B.S., M.F.A. and Ph.D. degree programs. Tyler is dedicated to providing education in the arts through a rich and diverse curriculum comprising advanced technologies, contemporary art practice, theory and criticism and traditional crafts while also providing the advantages afforded by a large comprehensive research institution.

Carlos Jimenez Studio, established in 1982, is an award-winning design and architecture firm located in Houston. The firm’s services also extend to urban design, interior design and exhibition design.

Founded in Philadelphia in 1907, H2L2 is an award-winning design firm focusing on architecture, planning, interior design and infrastructure. The firm’s extensive list of academic clients includes local campuses such as Bucknell University, Pennsylvania State University, Rutgers University and Swarthmore College, and extends internationally to institutions including American University in Cairo, Egypt; Jakarta (Indonesia) International School; Lincoln School in Buenos Aires, Argentina; and Marymount International School in Paris.

In August, Temple and architect Steven Holl ended their relationship for the design of the new Tyler School of Art building after contract terms could not be reached.

-By Gina Carson

Q&A with Carlos Jimenez
Q: Keeping in mind that the design process has not even begun yet, in general, what is your vision for the new Tyler building?
A: It is too early to define what this vision might be, as vision gets clarified and refined through the design process. I can say though that whatever the building’s formal resolution, it must reflect the integration and celebration of this great community of the arts.
I envision a building that allows for maximum possibilities as time and discovery take possession of the building. We want to maximize the architectural potential that the new school brings to Tyler and Temple University.
Working in Philadelphia adds another exciting dimension to this job. This city is one of the most fabled of American cities, ever intent on improving its quality of life. It is an auspicious coincidence that Tyler’s move parallels another migration to the city: that of the Barnes Collection.

Q: How is designing an art school different from designing other types of buildings?
A: An art school such as Tyler is the gathering of a complex and diverse set of programs, each with differing light, volumetric and dimensional requirements. Designing a building to contain this multifarious environment involves a determined concentration and sensitivity to issues relevant to making art. It is the farthest from designing a typical academic building, where classroom repetition or modularity might be desirable.
An art school is a highly dynamic and energetic environment. It is a place that must encourage the potential of art to be curious, subversive, omnivorous, quiet, reflective, elusive, forgetful, insistent, emotive and so on. Art measures and intensifies the pulse of a culture at any given time with great agility and freedom.
The dilemma is that architecture operates under a different tempo. Achieving a balance between these two arts becomes a critical pursuit. The goal is to arrive at an architecture that does not get in the way but facilitates any outcome. I don’t mean that the building is a neutral participant in the life of the school. To the contrary, it should be a full participant that knows when to step forward, when to recede, when to complete a sentence or when to remain silent. Atmosphere, light, public space, texture, acoustics, views, just to name a few design issues, acquire a singular and collective urgency.

Q: What is the single most important thing you will be keeping in mind when designing the new Tyler facility?
A: It is to carefully listen to specifics surrounding the project. I am referring to the circumstances unique to the project, from site, climate, program, economic, social and cultural aspects to the more subtle interchanges that quietly construct the life of any architecture. Listening is a formidable aid when seeing. These days we can easily translate our visually exploded world into a rushed and escapist formalism, often blurring what is clearly in front of us. I believe that architecture is foremost an art of subtlety and commitment of time.
The size and prominence of the Tyler School in the life of Temple’s campus is a constant reminder of the task at hand. Making a difference will be of paramount importance in my mind. What this difference might be becomes a fundamental question, and in pursuing its possibilities listening becomes a loyal and generous companion.

Q: Your work includes some of the country’s premier art education facilities. In addition, you have designed a variety of spaces for the private and public display of art. How does Tyler fit into this group?
A: Tyler is the largest and most complex art building that we have been asked to design, as well as the most urban. Most of the works you mentioned have been located in either privileged sites or in quiet urban settings. Tyler’s site is a tougher, denser environment. It reminds me of the site for the Houston Fine Art Press, the first building I ever designed for making and exhibiting art. As in that case, our site presents us with an undefined and discontinuous urban fabric.
Our biggest challenges will be to construct an enriching place for Tyler and provide an exemplary reference for the future of this section of the campus. The interior and collective life of the building is of utmost importance in continuing the art program’s success. But, so is the fact that the new building must contribute to the urban life of this area of the campus.
We would like the building to become a destination, as well as a place that invites longer visits or makes each stay a memorable experience, whether for an hour, a week or a semester. A work of architecture is always more interesting when it dissolves into the life that it generates. These aspirations are essential to my work. We are very much looking forward to incorporating them in the much larger scale that Tyler offers.

-By Gina Carson