Located in a culturally rich city, UNC Asheville’s commitment to the arts is aligned with its surroundings. With the Departments of Arts and New Media housed in the aging Owen Hall, the University partnered with Clark Nexsen to reimagine the brutalist-style building and create an inspiring environment for students and faculty. In addition to aesthetic and functional design challenges, the facility is only accessible through a wooded area, disconnecting Owen Hall from the activity of the nearby campus quads. With no main entry and little natural light penetrating the building, significant renovations were needed to enhance the building’s identity and appeal as a home for the arts.

The design solution establishes Owen Hall as a distinct and memorable arts education facility. A new sculpture park defines the path from the nearest quad to the building, putting art on display while supporting connectivity to the campus. The main entry now features extensive glazing and opens into a three-story atrium with a skylight, adding substantial daylight throughout the facility and defining the new circulation path.


55,362 SF


Anticipated 2021


Tracking LEED Silver


Architecture, Electrical, Fire Protection, Interior Design, Mechanical/Plumbing

At each level of the three-story atrium, new galleries display the work of students, faculty, and visiting artists. With UNC Asheville’s undergraduate programs uniquely distinguished by a significant research requirement, these galleries will play a key role in the recruitment of prospective arts students as they highlight how that research culminates in a solo art show for every graduating senior.

Housing programs for the traditional and digital arts including sculpture, ceramics, drawing, and photography, the renovation has created a more engaging studio and instructional space and a new kiln yard. One of the central challenges of the project was the desire to capture increased square footage to accommodate the growing arts program, but the funding required the design to stay within the existing footprint. The design team overcame this challenge by capturing the building’s numerous overhangs as new learning space without increasing the overall footprint of Owen Hall.

Reducing energy consumption and consistently ranking first or second among UNC system universities for energy usage are priorities to UNC Asheville. Through its renovation, Owen Hall is projected to use 15 percent less energy than an average classroom building and is tracking LEED Silver.