Located in a 75-year-old warehouse, Columbia Parks and Recreation’s Art Center was an inadequate and uninviting space. After obtaining partial funding through a Community Block Development Grant (CDBG), the City selected the Pond-Mashburn design/build team to create a dramatic and highly visible new Art Center.
The Art Center provides opportunities for citizens to explore and develop their artistic talents through classes, workshops and open studios. It also provides important outreach programs, including Creative Journey, an art rehabilitation program for veterans in Fort Jackson’s Wounded Warrior Transition Unit. The City sought a design which maximized programmatic flexibility, encouraged creativity and enhanced its citizens’ wellbeing.
The City selected the Cannon Garage, a prominent, city-owned parking facility with street-level retail space, as the new Art Center location. The City’s architect provided preliminary programming and space planning, then worked collaboratively with Mashburn and Pond to refine that plan, enhancing the function and appearance of the space while effectively controlling costs.
Pond’s core design is an open-studio concept, using the extensive storefront glazing to provide daylight to artists and to engage passersby with the art and artists inside. Mobile room dividers offer enhanced flexibility and display surfaces and allow artists and instructors to adapt the space to the activities.
Kilns, a paint spray booth and a sanding booth with dust collector, offer artists access to specialized equipment; extensive storage areas provide safe keeping for art-in-progress. A retail gallery is both a showcase and sale platform for local artists’ work. Pond’s design also incorporated structural pieces by local artists: the City contracted separately with local artists to create the exterior sign and a ceiling cloud.
Creating an art center within an existing parking garage presented several challenges for the Pond design team. All building systems had to be designed within the framework of the existing structure without altering the parking layout or flow and constructed without interrupting garage operations.
Specialized equipment required fume hoods; the design placed fume hood exhausts 60 feet above the Art Center and clay required specialized plumbing to prevent pipe damage from clay clean-up. Pond developed solutions which minimized cost and increased the functionality of the space, while effectively preventing plumbing damage.
Pond’s Interior Design Studio created an interior concept which focused on art creation and ease of maintenance. Initially envisioned as a colorful, vibrant space, Pond’s Interior Designers recognized highly colored spaces inhibit artists’ creativity and that colored surfaces can alter perception of color in the art; therefore, they suggested a neutral interior palette to enhance the creative process.
The greys and whites selected for the walls also served to mask dust created in the pottery and woodworking processes. The stained concrete floor hides dirt and is easily cleaned and maintained.
Pond is proud of this project which has already significantly enhanced the programming and visibility of City of Columbia’s Art Center by creating a studio space which allows artists to create and showcase their diverse work.