Marwen, a nationally recognized art education organization, provides free visual arts classes to under-served students in Chicago in grades 6-12. Wheeler Kearns has been a proud partner with Marwen, working collaboratively, as it has grown for close to twenty years; first tripling and then doubling their space and campus to a current 30,000SF. Situated on four floors of a heavy timber manufacturing building in Chicago, the program includes a main public gallery for student work, an alumni gallery, library, administrative offices, and 9 state-of-the-art instructional studios (including photography, graphic design, film, animation, fabric, and ceramics). Over 90% of their students go on to colleges in the arts. The recent expansion includes a new entry/parking court, transitional/multiuse loggia space, additional 15,000 SF of new/renovated studio spaces, new HVAC, windows, roof, and building signage.
The existing building was mined for its beauty; floors were gutted to expose the raw structure. Tooled concrete floors were poured to provide appropriate sound deadening as well as complement the existing brick masonry and Douglas fir structure. The color palette of the formal gallery spaces are kept spartan, allowing student work to take the lead, while vibrant colors appear around corners in the informal support spaces. All building system elements are color coded, reinforcing the simple elegance of the industrial model. The goal of the architecture is to provide a safe harbor for students, while at the same time liberating them to explore. Within this space, materials and elements become part of an instructional language that is intended to be “read” by future generations of artists, designers and architects.
Architect: Wheeler Kearns Architects
Structural: Thornton Tomasetti
General Contractor: Power Construction
MEP: Design Build
Civil: Terra Engineering
Landscape: Wolff Landscape Architecture
Lighting Consultant: Lux Populi
Photography: Steve Hall / Hedrich Blessing
Aerial Photography: Soaring Badger Productions