Huss Center plans announced

Design blends elements from various architectural styles


Eva Perez-Greene

Junior Daniela Tiedemann asks Architects Tim Carl and Nancy Blankford, along with Head of School Bryn Roberts, about plans for the Huss Center after the presentation Questions ranged from entry points from the bus stop to environmentally friendly features that the new space will incorporate in the building. “The number of performers we do have at this school is immense, and it’s at the point where the places we have to work with right now aren’t the best for the amount of kids that we have,” junior Asad Masood said.

It’s final. St. Paul Academy and Summit School is building the Huss Center for the Performing Arts, a project that’s lingered patiently in the back of students’ and administrators’ minds since the 1980s.

“The number of performers we have at this school is immense and its at the point where the places we have to work with right now aren’t the best for the amount of kids that we have. It’s too crowded,” junior Asad Masood said.

Head of School of School Bryn Roberts along with the two chief architects, Tim Carl and Nancy Blankford, formally presented their plans for the center on April 7 to Middle and Upper School students, opening up the presentation for questions at the end. From carpeting selections to brick color schemes, Roberts’ responses about the building plans were comprehensive.

With 18.7 million dollars raised and counting, construction will start with clearing out the parking lot adjacent to Drake Arena as well as some land west of the Randolph Campus.

The center, in its beautiful and finished state, is scheduled to open in the summer of 2015.

“We devoted a great deal of attention to what the campus needed and after months of work, the architects have come up with a plan,” Roberts said. The center has a modern, forward looking design which makes use of spaces effectively.

“We wanted the architects to come up with an innovative, bold design that drew its inspiration from what’s here and found a way to complement it,” Roberts said.

From an aesthetic standpoint, the plans present an amalgamation of the school’s older and newer architectural styles. For example, the color of the new building’s brick facade will draw from both the color of the bricks of the original campus building and its most recent expansion. That being said, the center is designed to look distinctly different from anything on campus: a fresh, modern construction as opposed to an extension.

“We have a fabulous performing arts program, but we lack a first rate performing space where our students can be the very best they can be,” Roberts said.

He and others working on the performing arts center have consulted with skilled acousticians and lighting experts in New York City as well as the architects, sound technicians, and construction company which renovated the Ordway theater in St. Paul.

The center will house two performing spaces, a 650 seat auditorium with a proscenium stage as well as a space the size of Bigelow Commons that seats 180 on removable seating and is similar to a black box with glass walls.

The building’s design includes a two-story loft space for set design and a parking garage into which sets can be loaded and unloaded directly into the scene shop.

The Huss Center for the Performing Arts will touch the SPA community and the broader community. “We need a gathering place and the Huss Center will give us this space,” Roberts commented. Student art will be showcased on the lobby’s walls, assemblies and senior speeches will be held in the main auditorium, faculty meetings will be held in the second performing space, and seniors will be able to lounge in the center’s lobby during the school day.

The center will also support performing arts in the broader community by allowing outside productions to rent its spaces on the weekends.

“As in everything we undertake, we should strive for excellence, and that is what this center enables us to do,” Roberts said.

Sophomore Taylor Reints agrees with Roberts: “To make SPA over the top with having everything and giving every opportunity a student could have, we need a performing arts center. Somewhere where people can feel free to express themselves.”