Ambitious $46 million project will unify Lesley University’s four colleges and further embed the school in the life of Cambridge.
Thursday, August 08, 2013
One confronts a blank canvas, lump of clay, block of marble or pile of scrap metal and, at once, creates something out of nothing and changes one substance into another. One has a vision, and one reifies it.
That same spirit of creation and change is what impels the construction of Lesley University’s $46 million, 93,000-square-foot Lunder Arts Center now under way in Porter Square. The project, designed to marry history to contemporary design, will include a new, four-story structure connected by a dramatic, three-story glass-walled commons to the historic former North Prospect Church, which is being relocated this November to the adjacent lot, restored and renovated to accommodate an arts library and art-making studios.
In addition, the former church’s stained-glass windows, cupola and historic bronze weathervane are being restored and reused, and the arts center will be “green,” built to LEED specifications. The general contractor for the project is John Moriarty & Associates of Winchester, Mass.
“The new Lunder Arts Center will relate to the character of Massachusetts Avenue, connecting to Lesley University Hall, the iconic white church, and the residential neighborhood,” says George Smith, Director of Operations and Campus Planning.
“The new buildings’ cream-colored terracotta cladding and glass connector will provide a bridge from the yellow Art Deco brick of University Hall to the white clapboards of the historic church,” which, Smith added, was originally moved to the present site from Harvard Square in 1867 by a team of oxen.
But the impact of the arts center transcends aesthetics: As the new home of Lesley’s College of Art and Design, it unifies the university’s four schools by bringing them into the same zip code as it renews their singularity of purpose.
The new arts center will boast classrooms, studios, digital and other laboratories, faculty offices and flexible spaces for collaborative work. The ground floor will feature art exhibition spaces, open to the public, that will enliven the streetscape.
When completed in January 2015, University President Dr. Joseph B. Moore says, “The Lunder Arts Center will be the catalyst to advance engagement with the arts across the university, throughout the surrounding community and everywhere Lesley graduates pursue their professions.”
Following a design charrette among numerous bidders for the transformative project, Lesley administrators worked with architect Bruner/Cott & Associates on a comprehensive study of the teaching and learning of the university’s art faculty and students, initiated a conversation with neighbors and examined other institutions with similar missions. At the same time, the university initiated an effort to rezone the area, meeting with neighbors and securing the necessary permits long before the first bulldozer was fired up.
Even before that, however, the university was focusing on how to integrate The Art Institute of Boston (which merged with Lesley University in 1998) with the rest of the university — a move that increases the art school’s space by 50 percent.
“With roughly one-third of its students engaged in the arts in some way, Lesley University has shown its dedication to preparing tomorrow’s artists and designers, art educators, art therapists, and other forms of the arts taught at the University,” says Stan Trecker, Dean of Lesley University College of Art and Design. “The Lunder Arts Center is a bold symbol of that dedication and will further facilitate our students’ ability to interact with, and learn from, each other as they collaborate across academic disciplines.”
As the building plans were finalized, Lesley immediately launched into addressing deferred maintenance concerns, taking care of necessary street and sewer upgrades and other site preparation. The university offers biweekly updates on the project and continues to work with the city of Cambridge through completion.
As the transformational Lunder Arts Center project steadily progresses, Lesley University is poised to reach a new level of excellence, engineer a more thorough integration of the arts throughout the curriculum, and solidify its role in New England’s higher education community.
Learn more about the Lunder Arts Center.
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