Cultured Magazine

Fall 2015

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Stanford University is best known for producing tech-savvy graduates who go on to start companies like Google, Yahoo, Instagram and Snapchat. The arts may not normally be top of mind for such students, but school administrators are keenly aware of how a little artistic experimentation can fuel creative thinking. Nine years ago, they decided to commit major new resources to arts programming, bolstering its role as a key part of the school's academic mission. "We really want every Stanford student to have a meaningful engagement with the arts," says Matthew Tiews, the school's Associate Dean for Advancement of the Arts. "This is something that's fundamental to what we want to be delivering as part of the 21st century Stanford education." As a result, all undergraduate students are now required to take at least one hands-on class related to what Tiews calls "creative expression." More importantly, the school has built a vastly expanded arts district. In 2013, it opened the Bing Concert Hall, designed by Ennead Architects. Last year, it opened a second building by Ennead to hold the Anderson Collection of modern and contemporary American art. And this fall, Stanford is opening what is arguably its most transformative new facility yet—the dramatic McMurtry Building for the department of art and art history. Designed by New York's Diller Scofidio + Renfro, in association with Portland-based Boora Architects, the 100,000-square-foot structure is formed by two distinct, interlocking wings. "These two strands are intertwined like DNA," says architect Charles Renfro. "In enclosing each other they create meeting spaces between the art history and art-making students." The art-making wing features a rough and tumble materiality that reflects the frequently messy nature of studio environments—patinated zinc cladding on the outside, and concrete and exposed galvanized steel in the interior spaces. "It starts in the basement with filmmaking, video art and electronic media, comes up to sculpture and woodworking studios on the ground floor, and then angles up with other classrooms," says Tiews. "The top level is for drawing and painting, with doors that open onto a roof deck, so the students can go out for plein air drawing and painting." The art history wing, by contrast, is clad in stucco, and contains classrooms, graduate study carrels and a screening room, all finished with softer textiles and acoustic dampening materials. It also houses the Oshman presentation space, a flexible room on the ground floor with collapsible bleacher seating, and a hangar-like glass door that opens to the outdoors. "It's a classroom by day and performance space by night," says Tiews. "Anything that's happening inside can spill out to the lawn." At the center of the building is a glass- enclosed library. "It's sandwiched between the two strands, and actually held up in space between them," says Renfro. "It's the real meeting space." Meanwhile, the design creates an open courtyard at ground level. "The campus flows right through the building." For Stanford, it's a structure that's both practical and highly symbolic. "It's going to have a catalytic effect," says Tiews. "It will allow us to increase the amount of courses we offer, especially in art practice, by about 35 percent over the next two years." At the same time, it serves as a highly visible new home. 108 CULTURED IMAGE COURTESY OF DILLER SCOFIDIO + RENFRO Genetic Engineering When Stanford declared that creative expression be mandatory coursework, the university hired architecture studio Diller Scofidio + Renfro to reinforce the essential nature of art. BY TIM McKEOUGH Stanford University's McMurtry Building is scheduled to open in October.

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