Adjacent to James Madison University’s historic Quad, Duke Hall was originally built in 1967 as a performance venue and classroom, studio, and faculty office facility for JMU’s Music, Theatre and Art departments. With low ceilings in the pin-up spaces, under-lit classrooms, and cramped studios, the facility was not optimal to serve the needs of visual arts students. JMU’s Art & Art History faculty had a vision to transform the building into a modern destination for students, artists, and the surrounding arts community. GUND Partnership and Clark Nexsen worked in association on the renovation of and addition to Duke Hall to create a new home for the university’s thriving visual arts programs.
As a dual academic and student life asset to campus, the facility houses public galleries and gathering spaces with the goal of connecting students to the surrounding community. The repurposed auditorium provides an engaging entry as an art gallery and main lobby. To create a bright, welcoming environment and solve the programmatic and spatial concerns, the phased renovation included all existing interior spaces, including mechanical, electrical, and plumbing upgrades that resulted in cost savings and sustainable features. The ceilings were raised and glass of varying transparencies and colors was introduced, providing a contemporary aesthetic and allowing for controlled natural daylight. The new East Addition, accessed by a glass enclosed walkway, complements the existing architecture of the surrounding buildings. Its bluestone and glass exterior house many studio spaces that open to a sculpture courtyard where work in progress can be viewed. As the flagship fine arts facility on campus, the design process was undertaken with an emphasis on creating safe learning environments that inspire arts exploration.