Renovations of the LSU Studio Arts Building are underway. The renovations were approved for Priority I funding in the state’s capital outlay budget during the 2019–20 legislative session.
Formerly called the Old Engineering Shops, the Studio Arts Building began its life circa 1924, along with nine other buildings designed by architect Theo C. Link as part of the original master plan for Louisiana State University. It is speculated that one of the initial uses of the building was that of a fabrication shop for the construction of the original campus buildings. Because the existing building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, a complete historic renovation will be undertaken to meet the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for the Rehabilitation of Historic Structures.
Renovation plans were drawn by Holly & Smith Architects (hollyandsmith.com) and have been ready for implementation since 2013. Holly & Smith Architects specializes in historic renovation and adaptive reuse as well as master planning and interiors. Industrial hygienist Monona Rossol, founder of ACTS (Arts, Crafts & Theater Safety), served as a consultant to the architects to ensure the renovation meets all health, safety, industrial, and OSHA standards.
The building is currently being occupied by the LSU School of Art for studio arts and, once renovated, will house modernized facilities for the foundations, ceramics, printmaking, and sculpture programs as well as offices. In addition to a total interior reorganization to meet the needs of the school, the renovation will provide significant upgrades to air conditioning and ventilation systems as well as a complete interior finish upgrade.
At the end of the three existing exterior courtyard spaces, breezeway connector additions will allow a new circulation spine across the four extending wings and provide exterior stair access to the basement spaces and second floors. The steel grillage treatment on the connecting additions references the industrial character of the steel truss framework throughout the high volume spaces of the interior. It also allows the additions to remain transparent and provides a view to the historic structures. The center courtyard connector addition is treated with particular prominence to announce a new south building entry sequence toward a new galley/critique space. The entry will be accessed by a new pedestrian bridge from South Campus Drive.
School of Art Director Rod Parker said the completion of the renovation will make a huge difference in the school’s recruitment efforts to attract even greater numbers of outstandingly talented students and faculty. It will also allow the Studio Arts Building to operate during the summer, creating opportunities for continuing education and offering students more access to the facilities they need to work.
“When finished, the building will also help further integrate the college,” commented LSU College of Art & Design Dean Alkis Tsolakis. “The building will become the gateway to the historic part of campus, connecting the old campus to the new and a greater public building will promote arts to the community and make the LSU Sculpture Quad more accessible,” he added.