Jacob’s Pillow Extension by Flansburgh Architects
Founded in 1930 by Ted Shawn, Jacob’s Pillow counts amongst a handful of centres in the United States that are solely dedicated to develop the dance discipline in its many forms. As the only such venue to hold a National Medal of the Arts and National Historic Landmark status, the school has played host to most Twentieth and Twenty First century greats: Alvin Ailey, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Pina Bausch, Trisha Brown, Merce Cunningham and Twyla Tharp, just to name a few. Each summer, the campus welcomes a prominent company and invites a group of young residents looking to hone different skill sets and produce new works. The annual Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival – the longest running of its kind in the United States – presents over 300 events, talks, exhibitions and performances. Unassumingly perched in the eastern reaches of Massachusetts’ picturesque Berkshires; far from the constraints and pressures of the big city – the secluded centre has long served as a bastion of cross-fertilization. However, the condition of the outdoor stage platforms and non weather-tight barn-like buildings – housing different studios and theatres – have only allowed Jacob’s Pillow to operate during the summer months.
Marking the closing of its 85th season last month, the dance school inaugurated the Perles Family Studio. The new site-specific and landscape-embedded structure can now operate throughout the year. Designed by award winning Boston firm Flansburgh Architects, the new multipurpose building echoes many of the farm-like architectural attributes evident in the more historical structures onsite but provides a new program of features conducive to different types of dance, events, and uses. The layout, use of material and conceptual values reveal additional merits. Adopting an almost ethnographic approach, the design team began their process immersed at Jacob’s Pillow. The experience allowed them to better understand the needs of visiting dancers, administrators and staff alike.
The Perles Family Studio was designed with the goal of keeping most structural elements exposed and honest, including the bolts that hold roof-bearing trusses together. Thick Cedar-, Fur- and Pine- wood cladding is used sparingly, allowing a mostly glazed facade to exude light. Additionally the almost ‘glass house’ allows passersby to look through to the nature on the opposite side, rendering the new studio close to invisible. In an almost Modernist sense, the carefully engineered Maple wood flooring seamlessly extends into the outdoor surroundings, thanks to a series of balconies and direct access. Built into a slope, the structure explicitly reveals slanted lines and maximises it’s footprint as usable space. Inside, technological features and clever solutions are modestly integrated, providing Jacob’s Pillow with the ability to employ the 2247 square-metres space for a wide range of functions. Tying the campus together, the Perles Family Studio works to fill in a gap and complete a courtyard like setting. Still the new structure’s vibrant cladding will slowly weather over time and blend perfectly into the context without overshadowing nearby historic buildings. In that same spirit, the new year-round building will allow Jacob’s Pillow to fostered more engagement with the local community.
358 Carter Road
Becket, Massachusetts, USA