The Drury Grosvenor Center for the Arts at St. George's School is an adaptive reuse and addition project that transforms an outmoded gymnasium and its ancillary areas into a multidisciplinary complex for the arts. Sasaki was hired to do feasibility and siting studies for the arts center and, after raising the estimated funds, the school extended the assignment to provide landscape, architectural, and interior design services for the project. Economy and sustainability were two driving criteria that influenced decision making during the planning phases of the project. By reusing much of the structure, spaces, and materials of the existing building complex, Sasaki achieved the programmatic platform and vision of the project. The center now provides facilities for all aspects the arts, including sculpture, painting, music, and drama.
The center includes 35,400 square feet of fine art studios, musical education spaces, a 400-seat theater, and support space for the drama department. A key strategy of the design was to work with the existing structures of the athletic complex and to add building wings around them. This approach allows the mass of the building to remain relatively compact by optimizing the utilization of the site, minimizing its overall footprint, and maximizing the connectivity and visibility between artistic disciplines.
The design locates the theater within the existing gym shell, adjacent to the existing stage, and adds a second floor within the southern portion of the shell to create the music department. An addition to the west houses the fine art studios. Studios for relatively clean media are located on the main level while studios for media that produce dust and noise are located on the lower level adjacent to a sculpture yard. A tower to the east contains a choral room on the upper level and a common room on the main level. The corridors double as gathering and critique spaces and rotating art galleries for student work.
The project takes advantage of the natural stepping of the terrain to accommodate a full level of studios at the lowest elevation of the site. Indoor studio spaces are flooded with daylight and expand onto a terrace and working yard outdoors. The entire wing of studio spaces and its outdoor terrace feature views to Newport and the shoreline.
The new arts center building responds to its immediate context by preserving the existing shape of the basketball gym. Its walls and roof are clad in red copper shingles while the brick and sandstone used on the rest of the facility closely match the Neo-Georgian buildings on campus. The local maritime heritage of Newport is captured by metal mast-like struts on the eastern porch and the west-facing windows.