The Dittmann Center
Clemens Matthew Granskou Complex
The Hammel, Green, and Abrahamson (HGA) team for the Dittmann Center project includes designer Loren Ahles, Jamie Milne-Rojek, project manager, Gary Reetz, and project architects Elizabeth Welty and Mark Larson,'89, as well as HGA's mechanical and electrical engineering staff.
Because of changes in the energy code and the major shift in program for the building, changes are planned in the way that the exterior is expressed. Most significant are shifts in the amount of glazing and the way that it is distributed.
Director of facilities Pete Sandberg said, "Light is critical for these disciplines, some need it, and some really do not want it. Loren Ahles and his team have developed an idea that allows the building to provide light where the program requires it, while presenting an interesting, although different set of elevations. Their idea maintains the transparency of the wall at each of the stairs on the south face, and these will be a part of the site lighting as they invite people to the building from the campus green. Ahles has worked to maintain the verticality of the building by extending the parapet upward, even as the windows had to become more horizontal."
The St. Olaf Framework Plan includes a key planning principle that says, "Use a consistent set of building materials (that incorporates the use of color and decorative accents) which is harmonious with the campus context." Architects have been very appreciative of this continuing commitment to the standards set by Sovik and others, and this can be seen on the Buntrock Commons. Various stones, slate, real copper flashings and details, solid window systems, wood, and more, lend a feeling of permanence and sustainability that many modern buildings cannot exhibit.
Ahles' proposals for the Center renovation stay true to this principle, as well as Edward Sovik's, '39, statement about the building found in the St. Olaf Center section of these pages, which could as well be one of the planning principles of the College. Substantial window systems, extensive use of copper, a St. Olaf, or Lannon, limestone addition on the west side that recalls the canted fortress like walls on the north, and a Kasota limestone screening wall element, combine into a palette of materials and a design that is consistent with the campus yet challenging.
Interiors will fit with the original intent of the building: high quality; clean and simple; attractive and seviceable. Sovik's circulation plan remains substantially as it was, with strong east/west flow on each level. The new aspects of the circulation pattern mean that there few "deep" spaces, that is, most are right on main circulation ways and the activity and energy will be easy to see and feel.
The Fireside Lounge remains as a full height space with a presence on the green, and will serve students as their primary gallery space. Visitors will also be able to view work in the space from vantage points on the rail at the upper level walkway, and this will lend an interesting vantage point, especially for three dimensional work. The museum gallery will be just across the way, and is an interior space in order to be able to control light and other environmental facors. It features high quality collection storage and work spaces, and a dedicated space for St. Olaf's permanent print collection.
The painting, drawing, and printmaking studios on the main level have been carefully placed to assure wonderful north light, as well as access to the terrace that spans the north face of the building, wrapping around the northeast corner for outdoor studio experiences.
The lower level primarily houses the disciplines that need less light. Photography, video, digital design, and so on, occupy the southeast spaces, while the metal working, wood shop, and foundry facilities used by the sculptors, are located in the northwest. Perhaps the most fascinating aspect of the adaptation of the old food service area is ceramics, mostly because the kilns are almost exactly where the Ole bakery ovens had been for for decades!
The HGA team placed the dance facilities on the upper level, with the largest of the studios being configured to allow for some performances, as well as the classes and rehearsals that need lots of space to prepare for performance on larger stages. The original roof framing is being moved upward about three and a half feet in order to meet current dance standards, and allow for better acoustics. This studio is intended to flexible, and the music department is planning to work in this space as well. Dressing, warm-up and storage spaces are contiguous with the studios.
HGA and the St. Olaf faculty of fine arts intend that the placement of programs within the building, as well as within the larger fine arts neighborhood and campus contexts, will work to allow the artists to create a new energy on the campus. It is hoped that it becomes natural for the campus to see dancers in the galleries, and three dimensional art on the dance stage. An opera workshop in the large dance studio provides opportunities for students from across the fine arts to see that their approaches to their work may be more similar than different.
The rebirth of the St. Olaf Center as the Dittmann Center, still a part of the Clemens Matthew Granskou Complex, signals a strong committment to the fine arts, and a continuing committment to the Granskou name.