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Temple U. Art School Prepares to Move to New Building by Rice U. Professor

Temple U.
A big new building for the Tyler School of Art at Temple U. opens next month. (Chronicle photographs by Lawrence Biemiller)

Philadelphia — When Carlos Jimenez began asking students and faculty members at Temple University’s Tyler School of Art what they wanted him to include in a new downtown building for the school, many of them told him how attached they were to quirky spaces on the school’s existing campus on an old estate in the city’s Elkins Park neighborhood.

So Mr. Jimenez, an architecture professor at Rice University who also has his own practice, made a special effort to create spaces for socializing, activities, and art in the 236,000-square-foot building, which the school will move to next month. Among its features are a bright, two-story central corridor that will serve as a busy interior street and a grassy courtyard overlooked by a cafe. It has a sleek, no-frills main facade that Mr. Jimenez set back from the sidewalk and enlivened with windows, a big cantilever, and a sloping lawn to make the corner site attractive to students passing by, hanging out, relaxing, or eating lunch from one of the vending trucks that populate the neighborhood.

During an informal tour Thursday, Mr. Jimenez said the project was interesting because the 1,500-student art school’s programmatic requirements were so diverse. Ovens for glassmaking and kilns for ceramics require heavy-duty ventilation, as do the chemicals involved in printmaking and photography. The sculpture studio has overhead cranes, while the textile studio has drying racks for fabric and thread. And the painters need north light. There were a lot more puzzle pieces to fit together than there would be in, say, a classroom building or a residence hall.

He had a modest construction budget, $55-million, but a large site that allowed him to be generous with both space and daylight. He ended up with a long two-story building with a basement — for the photographers’ darkrooms — and an “attic” in which he located painting studios. The building also houses gallery space, classrooms, and offices for faculty members and administrators. And it connects to an existing music building that Mr. Jimenez’s firm is enlarging. —Lawrence Biemiller

Update: Not everyone, it seems, likes everything about this building. The Philadelphia Inquirer‘s influential architecture writer, Inga Saffron, calls it a “frustrating demonstration of Temple’s cluelessness.” —L.B.

Temple U.
The main staircase rises just inside the front doors.

Temple U.
The east side of the building stretches the length of a long city block.

Temple U.
The main corridor to the back of the building serves as a two-level interior street, leading past the glass workshops toward sculpture and ceramics studios. Windows on the left overlook a grassy courtyard.

Temple U.
Double-height windows in the top-floor painting studios face north.

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