Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center, Vassar College

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Poughkeepsie, New York, USA
69,000 square feet / 6,000 square meters

The Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center combines the academic requirements of teaching art history with the exhibition and support requirements of a major regional museum. The new construction contains exhibition spaces, curatorial and administrative offices, storage and conservation spaces. The renovated art history department includes classrooms, offices, slide and photography study rooms and a library.

The Center responds to its position on campus. It establishes a presence at the main campus entrance and along Raymond Avenue, the most public edge of the campus. Its connection to Taylor Van Ingen Hall, the existing art history department and former art gallery, unifies the complex and establishes a dialogue between the two buildings.

The entrance to the gallery is a hexagonal glass pavilion. As a symbol of the Art Center, it connects to the art department by a colonnade, reiterating the scale of Taylor Van Ingen Hall and creating a new forecourt for the complex. The gallery is situated between Taylor Van Ingen and the Vassar Chapel on Raymond Avenue. The gallery is connected to Taylor Van Ingen by a glass-walled passageway, creating a procession to the gallery and another small courtyard. The gallery wing entrance is a vertical space with light emanating from high dormer windows. This space acts as an entry hall to the prints and drawings gallery, the permanent gallery, and the temporary exhibitions area.

The exhibition spaces are designed for maximum flexibility on a near-cubic module 20 feet on each side with 4.5-meter-high (15 feet) walls converging at six meters (20 feet) to clerestory windows. The clerestory brings down controlled natural light into the modules, which can be joined and recombined freely for changing exhibitions. Limestone walls, infilled with rust-colored brick, complement the fieldstone framed with limestone walls of the existing building. While Taylor Van Ingen repeats medieval forms, the new structure, which is of similar proportion, materials and color, is expressed in a crisper and more abstract manner.

Together with the renovated and enlarged home of the Art Department, the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center contributes to the high profile of the visual arts on the Vassar campus.

In 1996, the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center received an Honor Award from the AIA/Connecticut and the Taylor Hall received a Preservation Award from the Preservation League of New York State. In 1994, the Center received an Honor Award from the AIA Westchester/Mid-Hudson Chapter and a Certificate of Merit from the State of New York Executive Chamber.