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Architects from the global design and planning firm Gensler spoke to a crowd of about 40 at the High School for the Performing and Visual Arts on Thursday to discuss their vision for the new campus, which is being built under the $1.89 billion 2012 bond program that will replace or rebuild 40 schools across Houston.
The new building “will be an incubator for the arts,” said Gensler Design Director Lester Yuen, at a meeting to help kick off planning for the new school. “It’s a collection of spaces that will provide a new community for HSPVA.”
Located in the heart of Houston’s historic Montrose area since 1981, HSPVA was the city’s first magnet school and is divided into six departments: vocal music, instrumental music, dance, theatre, visual art, and creative writing.
The district is planning to build the new campus in downtown, blocks away from Minute Maid Park. The school will provide students with more rehearsal and performance spaces and access to the city’s performing arts community.
“(The students’) impact on downtown Houston will be greater than they realize,” Yuen said. “They will be a catalyst for the development of Houston arts.”
Thursday’s event at HSPVA coincided with the opening of a gallery exhibit showcasing the designs of 13 University of Houston architecture students who developed their own concepts for the new campus. The exhibit will run through June 6.
Although the school has a focus on performing arts, Yuen said the Gensler team will also include features to assist with academic learning. According to Yuen, those features will include flexible spaces to facilitate collaboration.
“We’re going to develop a framework that’s resilient and can absorb changes,” Yuen said. “That’s important to designing a school that reflects the 21st century and expands into different approaches.”
Cynthia Ogden understands the importance of implementing 21st century techniques into teaching styles. As chair of the Theatre Department, Ogden said the new school should be robust, adaptable and accommodate students and their ideas.
“As teachers of the 21st century, we’re held accountable for those methodologies, innovative technology and community connections that support our young and future artists,” said Ogden, who is also a member of the school’s Project Advisory Team.
HSPVA’s PAT will meet the second Monday of each month beginning this fall. The school will also have a section on their website with meeting minutes and updates on the school’s planning, design and construction process.
The new HSPVA campus will bring a new, more youthful energy to the downtown Houston area, according to HSPVA Principal Scott Allen.
“We have the chance to be the first state-of-the-art facility with state-of-the-art programs; that’s a combination that can’t fail,” Allen said.
In the current building, students often rehearse in the hallways and dance in common areas because of the lack of space in their classrooms, according to Allen. A new facility will help students be more successful, he said.
“We need to take time to design a facility that meets the needs of our programs,” Allen said. “It needs to be a community project so that we are all proud whenever the doors open.”
HSPVA is among the first group of 17 schools scheduled to begin the planning and design phase this year under the 2012 bond program. Construction should be underway sometime in 2014, and the new school could be open for students no later than 2017.