Snøhetta etches gracious new expansion for Dartmouth's iconic Hopkins Center

Dartmouth College and Snøhetta reveal the first looks of their upcoming redesign of the Hopkins Center for the Arts, an improved gateway to the campus' dynamic Arts District.

by STIRworldPublished on : May 09, 2022

Six decades in, the Hopkins Centre at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire, the United States, which once served as an architectural prototype for an entire generation of such all-in-one art centres, will finally welcome a modern redesign commissioned to celebrated international firm Snøhetta. While the structure upgrades itself, its earlier built ideology that united disparate disciplines of art education as well as performance presentations across music, theatre, film and dance, under one roof, still remains the driving force for the new design. To "welcome, gather, and create", the expansion aims to become a gateway to Dartmouth's Art District and will become a space that welcomes visitors, artists, and students to gather and create art on a common, multifaceted platform.

The forthcoming intervention, led by Snøhetta’s New York City office, comprises a fresh plaza for the area fronting the centre, along with a new building and more renovations to the existing form. It also forms part of a broader reimagining of Hopkins Center for the Arts (the Hop) to create more ambitious cross-disciplinary endeavours for itself and beyond, to meet the experiential demands of its faculty and students. The new building will boast of avant-garde digital and broadcasting capabilities, more areas for production and rehearsals, and the potential for interactive audience experiences.

The north facade of Hopkins Center for the Arts depicting the unique blend between the existing and the new | Hopkins Center for the Arts | Snøhetta  | STIRworld
The north facade of Hopkins Center for the Arts depicting the unique blend between the existing and the new Image: Courtesy of Snøhetta and Methanoia

The Hop's remains follows a timely continuation to the modernist Wallace K Harrison's (known for Metropolitan Opera in Manhattan) earlier design than a complete transformation. While the expansion adds new spaces to the practice and performance centre, it retains and preserves beloved spaces such as the Top of the Hop, Moore Theatre, and the Spaulding Auditorium. The proposal also emphasises increasing The Hop's connection to the surrounding art buildings along with upgrading accessibility and mobility to the site.

The interior of the forum with the curved central stairs connecting the lobby to the second floor | Hopkins Center for the Arts | Snøhetta  | STIRworld
The interior of the forum with the curved central stairs connecting the lobby to the second floor Image: Courtesy of Snøhetta and Methanoia

The old and new converge at the plaza conceptualised from the region's geography, contrasting the rugged natural terrain to Dartmouth’s refined lawns. The design sets dialogue with the adjacent streets and its surrounding New England small-town fabric to become a part of the existing living fabric. “To extend The Hop’s welcome, the design reaches out to the adjacent streets of the campus and its surrounding New England small-town urban fabric, drawing inspiration from nearby mountains and native ecologies to celebrate its unique genius loci,” Snøhetta explains.

The plaza creates a guided path to the entrance while providing a preliminary glimpse of spaces and activities through the dynamic glazed façade. Approached from the entrance, the new lobby space dubbed The Forum, with striated timber walls and a curved staircase, forms a common stage for visitors, artists, students, and anyone who enters the artery of the educational architecture. The Forum reciprocates the existing centre's old and famous arches by means of contemporary curves and free-flowing spaces that attract visitors.

"The experiences of visitors, Dartmouth students, and the people of Hanover are all shaped by the region's geography, and by its rugged natural beauty, which serves as a striking foil to the refined lawns, stately buildings, and accomplished arts practices of the campus,” shares Snøhetta.

The recital hall with the glazed windows bringing in ample natural light | Hopkins Center for the Arts | Snøhetta  | STIRworld
The recital hall with the glazed windows bringing in ample natural light Image: Courtesy of Snøhetta and Methanoia

The Forum hosts a central stair that will connect to the second floor, linking the new Recital Hall and Performance Lab, two venues designed for innovative and interactive performance events, with the ground floor and the plaza. Overlooking the latter, the new recital hall with a capacity of 150 seats offers stunning views of the Baker Library Tower while looking into the Sugar Maples on The Green. Designed as a glass-enclosed lantern, its tapered arch-framed windows are created using an innovative, curved mullion system that channels abundant daylight into the hall. The visual connectivity of the hall to The Green passively contributes to the new additions in becoming a part of old Dartmouth.

“Designed as a platform to elevate the daily lives of students and faculty, the plaza welcomes visitors and offers a glimpse into the dynamism of the arts processes happening inside the building,” the design team adds.

The performance lab with potential for interactive audience experiences  | Hopkins Center for the Arts | Snøhetta  | STIRworld
The performance lab with potential for interactive audience experiences Image: Courtesy of Snøhetta and Methanoia

The Hop’s first purpose-built dance rehearsal space, partially submerged below the forum, frames glimpses of north light coming across the plaza tree canopy through the clerestory windows. The 7.3 m high dance studio with well-lit interiors becomes an ideal space for the dance troop’s practices. While new interventions bring forward potential opportunities to the grounds of Dartmouth, the trans-disciplinary firm is crafting a wider platform for the multi-disciplinary activities of the Art District. As Dartmouth relays, Snøhetta was selected for reimagining The Hop because of the firm’s experience in honouring historic architecture and creating connections between indoors and outdoors, and the unveiled design remains true to that claim.

“The voices of an ensemble, the production team for a dance video, and audiences themselves all represent the creative potential of diverse participation. We are excited to expand the Hop's pioneering legacy as a venue for emerging forms of artistic collaboration and creative expression by bringing new rehearsal and production spaces to the building, ensuring continued support for a variety of perspectives and ways of making,” mention Craig Dykers, Snøhetta Founding Partner. 

The construction for Snøhetta’s expansion of the Hop is scheduled to begin in late 2022, and the transformation will reopen in 2025. It represents the latest improvement to the Dartmouth Arts District and follows the creation of the Black Family Visual Arts Center, completed in 2012 by Machado Silvetti, and the renovation of the Hood Museum of Art, redesigned by Tod Williams and Billie Tsien Architects in 2019. “During the construction process, the Hop will continue to offer a range of in-person performances and programs utilising spaces throughout the Dartmouth campus and beyond,” the firm concludes. 

 (Text by Sunena V Maju, intern at STIRworld)

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