A school for dance

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Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

This project is a school for dance located in the Northwest of Washington, D.C. It functions mainly as a professional educational center for dance, but also offers classes to the community at night and on weekends. The school will accommodate up to 250 professional students and as many from the community. The community classes help support the school as well as provide students with the opportunity to obtain teaching experience. Opera, previously the main draw for musical performances, has, in recent years, become increasingly expensive to produce. As a result it has become unavailable to many. This has resulted in a rise in the popularity of dance. The decision to design a school for dance was inspired partially by my love for dance and partially by the increased need for such a school. A pinwheel circulation was chosen as an indication of perpetual movement and the school evolved around this idea. Honest, but modest materials were used as is befitting a public school with limited financial resources. The tactile qualities of the materials are important. Materials are rough and informal, as are the students in the initial execution of their art; moving towards refinement and, subsequently, moving on. The accumulation of many small individual units all working together to make a whole is similar to the relationship of the students to the school. Brick is too formal for this school and for this site, so block was chosen. The building takes advantage of every opportunity to interact with the site by providing natural gardens and outdoor places to dance. The paths formed by each leg of the pinwheel are interwoven with the site so that each path is part site, part building. It is important to provide students with informal meeting places in order to increase the possibility of contact with others. This is an important aspect of any school, therefore every opportunity was taken to provide them where possible. The intent was to provide a well composed, well choreographed space that was rich in its sensory offerings and amenable to the study of dance.