Council of Independent Colleges Historic Campus Architecture Project

 

 
Dorothy and Dexter Baker Center for the Arts

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Institution Name: Muhlenberg College
Original/Historic Place Name: Center for the Arts
Location on Campus: 2400 Chew St.
Date(s) of Construction:
1975-1976original construction Johnson, Philip Johnson-Burgee
Designer: Philip Johnson; Johnson-Burgee
Type of Place: Individual building
Style: Postmodern (Glossary)
Significance: architecture, education
Narrative: see below
References: see below
Materials:
Foundation: concrete
Walls: brick
Roof: membrane
 
Function:
1976-present (2006)academic department building (music, art, English)
1976-present (2006)auditorium
1976-present (2006)classrooms
1976-present (2006)museum (art gallery)
1976-present (2006)faculty offices
1976-present (2006)theater
1976-present (2006)other (center for the arts: art studios, performance venues, art gallery, practice rooms, faculty offices)
 

Narrative:
In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Muhlenberg College President Dr. John Morey and Chairman of the Board of Trustees Rev. Paul C. Empie believed that the College was at a turning point in its history, and they took advantage of the opportunity to expand the College's educational and cultural resources by investing in areas of importance that had not been traditional strengths for Muhlenberg. Political, social, and economic times appeared less than ideal, but the decision was made to approach world-renowned architect Philip Johnson to create the first significant addition to Muhlenberg's academic infrastructure in decades. A striking modernist statement, the Center for the Arts was completed in 1976 and did indeed help transform the College and community in significant ways. It also received accolades from the architectural and design world upon its completion and was the cover feature in Architectural Record Magazine in November, 1977.

The focal point of the design is a 220-foot, glass covered galleria that diagonally bisects the structure. This galleria serves as a major thoroughfare, gathering place, and unique site for featuring the arts. The main level contains the theatre/auditorium complex, the lecture/recital hall, galleries, class and seminar rooms, the Art Department offices and slide library, and studios for drawing, painting, and sculpture. The upper level contains the Music and English Departments, faculty offices, music studios, rehearsal rooms, and listening and practice rooms.
 

References:

"The Center for the Arts/Muhlenberg College." Special Collections, Muhlenberg College, Allentown, PA.

Muhlenberg Alumni News, February 1972.

Muhlenberg College Source Book, 2003-2004. [Allentown, PA: Muhlenberg College, 2003].

Muhlenberg Weekly, October 28, 1971. Muhlenburg College, Allentown, PA.

"A Starkly Elegant Form Provides Strong Artistic Expression at the Fine Arts Center, Muhlenberg College." Architectural Record 162 (November 1977): 110-11.

 

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