Purchase College’s Dance Building recently received an architectural award for historic preservation. The award was presented by the American Institute of Architects Westchester/Mid-Hudson Chapter for renovations and restorations made to the building by Robert Siegel Architects. The $6 million project was completed in the spring of 2006 and included a new skylight and curtain wall system that involved replacing 11,000 square feet of glass, as well as interior restorations and upgrades.
The Dance Building was designed by Gunnar Birkerts and Associates in 1970. Completed in 1976, this was the first building in America devoted solely to the instruction and performance of dance. Inspired by Dance Department Dean William Bales’ vision of dance as ideally performed out-of-doors, the architect conceived of the building as a garden, surrounded by a high wall within which studios are positioned like pavilions.
By 2000, water leaks had long since developed in multiple locations in the building, including the area around the internal gutter, the skylight, the masonry cavity and the curtain wall. The leaks had caused damage to the building structure and interior finishes.
In 2003, Robert Siegel Architects began investigating options for replacing the skylight and gutter system in order to stop water from penetrating the building envelope and to improve the thermal performance of the glazing system.
The project included complete replacement of the curtain wall system and the skylight and gutter system. Also included were structural upgrades to tie in the masonry exterior wall and the aluminum skylight and to comply with current lateral load requirements.
The new high-performance glazing and skylight structure improves insulation, increases the amount of daylight and reduces the U.V. energy entering the building. The new glass units are insulated and laminated with a special U.V. resistant coating. The new gutter design abandons the leaking internal leaders and provides new exterior downspouts with one side open in order to resist accumulation of ice and snow and to create a musical sound of the water falling onto river stones.
The interior floor finishes, upholstery and paint colors are modified from the original design to reflect architecture of our time rather than the 1970s. The original VCT floor has been replaced with Plynyl to improve sound absorption, eliminate the need for waxing, and provide a gently cushioned surface that is welcome relief to dancers’ feet.
“These renovations and restorations bring the building closer to the original intentions of the design of the building,” explains Robert Siegel. “The high performance glazing provides for more light than the original glass skylights and makes the building better insulated, creating greater efficiency of the heating and air conditioning systems.
“We are honored to receive this award which recognizes the importance of preserving modern architecture.”
The master plan for Purchase College was developed by Edward Larrabee Barnes which was reminiscent of Jefferson’s mall at the University of Virginia and commissioned architects of national prominence to design buildings along the perimeter of the Great Court. In addition to Birkerts, the architects of the original campus buildings included Philip Johnson and John Burgee; Gwathmey Siegel; Paul Rudolph, FAIA; and the Architects Collaborative.
The New York City-based Robert Siegel Architects also renovated the skylight system in the Purchase College Music Building several years ago. They are an award-winning architectural firm with projects throughout the United States, Korea, China and Japan.