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Designing an expansion befitting school's status

Rochester Business Journal
December 3, 2010

Tasked with designing an expansion to Kodak Hall at Eastman Theatre that matched the existing structure without duplicating it, project architects hit a home run, Eastman School of Music officials say.

The results are the new Eastman East Wing housing the six-story, 73-foot-high Wolk Atrium with a 19-foot chandelier, designed by famed Seattle glass sculptor Dale Chihuly, hanging from a skylight. The 222-seat, two-level Hatch Recital Hall awaits solo and chamber recitals.

"I think it's fabulous," Jamal Rossi, executive associate dean at the Eastman School and a member of the design team, said of the expansion. "The front entrance, the Wolk Atrium, is a spectacular, world-class space. I'm thrilled that Rochester now has a space that I hope becomes an iconic image for downtown Rochester.

"The Hatch Recital Hall, because of the way it's designed acoustically but also just aesthetically, is going to become one of the great recital halls in the world. The entire project-the way the addition flows into the theater, the new public amenities in the theater and the new boxes in Kodak Hall-it looks like it was intended to be there."

Rochester-based Chaintreuil Jensen Stark Architects LLP designed the project. The Pike Co. Inc. managed construction.

The wing is faced with limestone to match the Eastman Theatre performance hall, which opened in 1922, said Craig Jensen, a partner at Chaintreuil Jensen Stark. Designers also wanted to carry over key elevations of the existing theater to the addition.

"But we knew we couldn't develop the kind of architectural detail that was done in the 1920s," he said. "It's possible, but it didn't seem appropriate for the new building. So we were looking for other types of devices or architectural ideas to be sympathetic to, but not mimic, the existing building."

When Rossi and others at the Eastman School said they did not want windows in the large rehearsal hall on the fourth floor of the addition, designers mulled how to bring architectural detail to the exterior.

"We had to look for other devices to provide some articulation or interest to the faade, and also to counterbalance that large mass of wall," Jensen said. "The decision was made to try to open it up at the street level, which is somewhat different (from) typical buildings that are faced with stone.

"Because we had so much masonry above," he added, "we opened it up at the street and celebrate that kind of interface with the public and with the patrons in the lobbies or out on the sidewalk under the marquee. We're putting a lot of glass at the base, and a lot less at the top. It's a little bit upside down in that regard."

The limestone atrium has a large window, with the marquee sloping down four to five feet to match the existing structure.

"Keeping the marquee at a constant level from the Eastman was going to get it very high off the ground (at the other end)," Jensen explained. "It would lose some of its effectiveness and also some of its psychological and physical presence relative to the sidewalk. We thought stepping it was more appropriate.

"We weren't going to match it anyway in terms of the architectural details, so this is a continuation but also new."

"I'm a musician, not an architect," Rossi said. "They were very receptive to making certain they adjusted things so that it was really what we, the client, were looking for."

The atrium space links the various levels of the new and the existing buildings so that one flows into the other, Jensen said. The space is highlighted by the large glass chandelier, a Chihuly commission.

"We sent (the artist's studio) our design for the atrium so they could design it specifically for the space, in terms of the scale and other things," Jensen said.

The sculpture, titled the "Blue and Gold Chandelier," mimics the University of Rochester's school colors. It is 19 feet high and 11 feet wide, contains some 1,350 glass elements and weighs 2,930 pounds.

"We're pleased to have had the opportunity to do a project like this," Jensen said. "It's a signature project. It's a project that's going to be used by the whole community."

12/3/10 (c) 2010 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or e-mail


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