Hardhat tour of the new Tyler School of Art

[UPDATE: Hi folks.  I’m loving that this post and issue is generating such a great discussion.  Just want to let you know that we’ve moved The Sixth Square to WHYY’s server.  Please consider continuing discussion of this story at its new home.  Click here to read the post and comment.  Thanks! – Dan P.]

Temple University’s Tyler School of Art is currently ranked in the top 15 art schools in the country. It’s about to make the move from its suburban setting in Elkins Park to join the rest of the Temple Campus in North Philadelphia.  From WHYY’s Arts and Culture desk, Alex Schmidt took a tour of the new facility with the architect. Here is a a slideshow of Alex’s tour.  Read the story below.

For more descriptions of these photos, check out our Flickr set.

Listen to this story here.

Carlos Jimenez, the architect of the new Tyler School of Art, only makes it out to Philadelphia from his home in Texas once a month to check on the progress of his building. In the few days he spends on site, he scrutinizes every detail of the construction.

“It looks like they’re making good progress here,” he says, pointing to one of several areas that is getting closer to completion in anticipation of the school’s mid-fall opening.

Jimenez is an award-winning architect who is on the faculty of Rice University.  He has built other art schools and museums but at 250,000 square feet, Tyler is by far the largest.  It accommodates several sub-departments – photography, graphics, ceramics, printing, metal, fiber, painting and drawing, sculpture, and glass blowing.  Jimenez’s challenge was to connect all of those into one whole, within a strict space, and on a tight budget.

“It has been a rewarding job but also a difficult job. You want to do lots of things and there are always lots of limits. The difficult thing is how to balance all those aspects of a job that by nature is highly complex,” he explains.

According to the construction schedule, there are only two months left until the art school is set to be completed.

The entrance, which will be a staircase flanked by sloping lawns, is still a mountain of dirt. But inside you can start to see what a Tyler student will experience.

Continuing the tour, Jimenez explains the idea behind the entrance.

“We are now in the main lobby. The idea that everybody comes to this passageway, and you right away are encountering this very dramatic circulation point,” he says.

An even more dramatic passageway with 30-foot high ceilings leads out from the lobby and into the school. On one side of this hall is a wall of enormous windows looking out on what will be the largest green space on Temple’s campus. Opposite the windows, there are wide, rectangular columns painted a bright green.

“You know color is a way of enlarging the limit of a budget because what i mean by that is you still have to paint these walls, but it doesn’t have to be white. For instance, these are mechanical shafts. All of these green areas have functions that are particular objective,” Jimenez says as he points out the columns.

Here on the ground floor are the most heavy duty studios — glass blowing and sculpture. At the end of the long passageway, you ascend a staircase to the second floor — for graphics, metals, fiber and printing. Jimenez calls the very top floor, which is the space for drawing and painting, the attic. You can see the shape of the sloping angle of the roof, as you would in a house’s attic. Only this attic has floor to ceiling windows looking out on a sprawling city view. North Philadelphia looks both urban and bucolic from up here, with trees peeking out between the buildings.

“This is the longest north elevation on the entire campus. And the purpose of that was that they get this even light,” he says, “all the studios face north. If you place them on the east, you have dead light in the afternoon. On the west you have the opposite.”

One of the biggest challenges for Jimenez has been creating a building that is inspirational to artists without over-asserting its own design. Down on the lower ground level, where the photography studios are, we came across a strange, acutely angled corner. I asked Jimenez what would go in it.

“The question you raise is an interesting one, because it’s for them to take over,” he answers.

“It’s for the artist to come up with the next stage of the architecture. If I were an artist and I come in here and I see that, then I would do something with that wall. The architecture is there for you to participate in, or to ignore if you want to. That’s sort of what i always hoped to achieve with this building.”

Faculty will start moving into the new building in October.  Students will start using it – or not using it – in January.

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15 Comments on “Hardhat tour of the new Tyler School of Art”

  1. balm Says:

    i looked at going to grad school in sculpture at tyler. it looked like a pretty nice place. thanks for the article. http://darinwhite.wordpress.com

  2. Dan Pohlig Says:

    Thanks balm. Alex is traveling for the weekend but when she gets back on Monday, I’m sure she’ll appreciate the comment on her story. Feel free to pass it along to anyone who might be interested. The folks at Temple seem pretty excited about the prospect of having their art school on the main campus with everything else and I can’t help but think that the North Philly setting will be quite an inspiration for some artists.

  3. A Tyler Artist Says:

    Thanks for the building Jimenez but I think I speak for most of the students that go to the school in saying that you can keep it. It should’ve been built in Elkins Park and everyone knows this. The downtown site is the subject of much hate when the money that it took to build this new building could’ve easily been spent on revamping the old campus up to what it should be. New equipment for example should’ve been bought for us in Elkins Park instead of building this new incredibly unattractive and out of the way nasty tan brick building in the middle of the concrete jungle. It would’ve been easier, more affordable, and let’s face it, it would’ve been the right thing to do to get our old campus up to speed.

    Stella Elkins Tyler wrote in her will when she gave the campus to Temple that the Elkins Park Estate would always be used to further the visual arts. Instead of honoring that wish, Temple decided – without our consent i might add – to move us downtown to a place without the nature that we so covet, and to sell and bulldoze the existing Elkins Estate. Now that being said, Temple surely has no respect for the wishes of the dead or the wishes of its students.

  4. A Tyler Artist Says:

    P.S. to Dan Pohlig, we’re already in Northern Philadelphia, that’s where Elkins Park is and it’s a helluva lot more inspirational with the natural setting with the trees and fields that we have at the moment than the concrete jungle of center city could ever offer.

  5. Dan Pohlig Says:

    Every story has several sides to it just as every artist finds inspiration in different places. I’m glad that we’re hearing other perspectives on this story. Thanks for contributing, Tyler Artist.

    Having just gotten to know a little about this move, I wasn’t following the story when the initial decision was made to move the art school to the main campus. Can you send along some links to the coverage from that time that might show some of the controversy surrounding the decision? Thanks again for shedding some light to the another facet of the story!

  6. Second Opinion Says:

    I just want to make it clear that not all Tyler students are horribly against the move. I am quite excited for the new location as well as the new facilities. The suburban Elkins Park campus is fabulous, but I am aggravated that my fellow up and coming artists have in general been so negative about this change of perspective.

    From what I understand the Elkins Park campus would have been much more of a challenge to renovate, and much more costly. Even though the buildings were once upon a time new, 50 years later the up keep has become a black hole in Tyler’s budget. Also when considering the long term costs, one should consider the shuttle bus running, the extra staff for food, health, and administration that are needed so long as Tyler remains a separate campus.

    About the only thing I really agree with the nay-sayers is the question of how Stella Elkins Tyler’s request for the use of her property is being handled (why isn’t the school being more open about what is to become of the property, no one seems to know) AND the ugly tan brick. The inside looks great from the pictures, but oh I hate that brick.

    PS: Alex, you didn’t mention the ceramics department, where are they gonna end up? I guess I will assume the basement for now.

  7. A smarter tyler student Says:

    i would like to point out that the attitude expressed by tyler staunchie #1 is a perfect example of the close-mindedness of many of the art students here. there is an elitist idea circulating, mostly held by people who are either too afraid to mingle with the rest of the world, or assume they are just too special to do so. The Elkins Park campus has been great, it’s definately been a haven tucked away from the world, but it doesn’t take a brainiac to see that the facilities and space restrictions have been seriously outdated. while we’ve certainly had fun way here up north, the new facilities are amazing! the building itself will be loaded to the max, and think only of the new possibilities situated in the new campus! stupid art fucks that think they’re somehow above society can avoid a reality check by staying at the old rotting biohazard campus then, how rude to piss on Jimenez’s work…..

  8. A smarter tyler student Says:

    p.s.- i would like to say hear hear! to ‘a second opinion, very intelligent remarks, i agree. and just one more thing to butthead, have you ever looked across the street at lynnewood gardens, or even on cheltenham ave? i don’t know where you’re getting your natural setting, but you’ve obviously got the blinkers on if you think this side of town is all cookies n’ cream. i bet pbs didn’t think they were gonna spark such a specific micro-climate conflict.

  9. poor reps for tyler Says:

    i think that the foul mouthed Tyler student meant to write ‘definitely’.

  10. recent visitor Says:

    We were one of the first to tour the new building at the open house a few weeks ago and it is amazing. We don’t have the old facility to compare it to, and it is unfortunate that the wishes of the founder are not being kept and the scenery isn’t as inspirational in town, but the new facility has a lot to offer. To answer Second Opinion’s question, photography and foundation are on the lower level and ceramics is on the 1st floor. There’s a room for throwing, another room for hand building, a glazing room, two different kiln rooms and studios. Next to ceramics is sculpture, which is next to glass. The second floor has printmaking, fibers, metals, graphic art and a bunch of foundation studios. The third floor is just painting and drawing with huge amazing floor to ceiling windows. Every area has a bunch of undergrad and grad studios. All I know is if my daughter ends up at Tyler, I would say it definitely has everything going for it that she could dream of and then some. That’s just the facilities… and we aren’t even talking about the faculty.

  11. why cant people just mellow out… it is about a school and in time a school ends up just being a school… politics get lost an people learn…

  12. Ariel West Says:

    who is that in the pink hard hat?

  13. Paloma Water Says:

    I’m glad that I’ve found your whyy.wordpress.com website. Thanks for sharing your talent and helpful information with us. You are a bright light!

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