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Creating Place: A Center for Visual Arts in New Hope, Pennsylvania

Part 2 Dissertation 2003
Emily Krick
University of Maryland | USA
The concept of “place” extends far beyond being a “particular region or location”, for it is also something that one can sense. While many factors are involved, the unity of an area plays a primary role in causing this sensation. New Hope, Pennsylvania, has a remarkable presence as a place primarily due to the strength of visual arts as a unifying local tradition. A new community visual arts center will be merged into this town of diverse galleries, confronting an issue of creating modern architecture relative to and enhancing such an established place.
Emily Krick

While we often find thesis students attempting to adapt a regional or industrial vernacular for new buildings, they rarely come off so seamlessly as this Art Center project. These attempts too often fall into one of two categories: either they are too literal in their adaptation—resulting in a kitsch project—or they are too abstract to engender an immediate reading of the vernacular source(s) of the work. The Art Center in New Hope, PA, presented in the winter of 2002, does not fall into either trap.

The subtle qualities of this project begin with the site plan. An assembly of prismatic buildings that casually, but convincingly, enclose spaces on either side of the Delaware River canal, the Art Center initially reminds one of a Pennsylvania farm. But on second glance, the industrial imagery of Delaware River industrial mills makes its appearance. Using traditionally local materials on the exterior (stone and timber) the author has limned a tableau in which we are ultimately unable to date the buildings; they appear to be timeless.

This thesis also weaves materials together seamlessly and expressively. Stone and wood appear in a natural and organic relationship, and wood-and- wire trusses—minimal in their elegance—cap the important interior spaces in an effortless composition. Interior spaces connect to the exterior such that similar activities can occur in both realms, and the porous courtyard façades promote inside-outside relationships. In all, it’s a mature project, without too much rhetoric.

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