Council of Independent Colleges Historic Campus Architecture Project


Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center

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Institution Name: Vassar College
Original/Historic Place Name: Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center
Location on Campus: adjacent to main gate on Raymond Ave.
Date(s) of Construction:
1993original construction Pelli, Cesar Cesar Pelli & Associates
Designer: Cesar Pelli
Type of Place: Individual building
Style: Contemporary (Glossary)
Significance: architecture, education, engineering
Narrative: see below
References: see below
Foundation: concrete
Walls: brick, glass, and limestone
Roof: gabled copper roof with rubber ballasted flat roof
ca. 1993-present (2006)museum (art gallery)

The Vassar art collection which Matthew Vassar purchased from Elias Magoon in 1864 has moved three times since then. It was first located in a gallery on the top floor of Main Building. By 1915 after two intervening steps, the collection moved to Taylor Hall, a new building where it prospered and grew ever more complex and so increasingly cramped for space. In October 1993, it moved again to the newly-built Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center, designed by Cesar Pelli.

Situated along the green lawn between the chapel and Taylor Hall, the Loeb Center reinterprets the architecture of Taylor and the neighboring Van Ingen library annex in a modern approach to the Gothic style. Both the building's mass and its materials of limestone, brick, and poured concrete contextualize it in its site. Elegant in its simplicity, the design of the Loeb Center belies the complexity of the architectural issues it resolved: how to connect the new building to Taylor Hall, how to create a sense of continuity with the existing neighboring buildings, and how, at the same time, to give the new building an identity of its own. Pelli designed an inviting glass and hexagonal entrance which leads past a sculpture garden, created by Diana Balmori, to a grand entrance hall. Color, especially the color green, enhances the center. Inside the building Pelli developed a system of clerestory windows through which light is diffused by slanting ceilings. Pelli also created comfortable conditions in the gallery for student study, which serves as a laboratory for class work. The driveway leading past the art center from the campus entrance gate to Main Building was remodeled in keeping with the design of the art center.

The concurrent remodeling of Taylor and of the art department section of Van Ingen revitalized the art department facilities. Because the Loeb Gallery is open to the public, its presence has also added exponentially to the artistic resources of the Hudson Valley as its size and quality have burgeoned.


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