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FOCUS: Center for the Visual Arts receives prestigious American Architecture Award

An exterior shot of the building

Over 130 buildings and urban plans from a shortlist of over 400 projects have won 2020 American Architecture Awards in a competition organized by The Chicago Athenaeum: Museum of Architecture and Design and The European Centre for Architecture Art Design and Urban Studies.

Boise State’s Center for the Visual Arts is among them.

The CVA is one of 11 winners in the Culture and Museums category. Its designer, HGA, submitted the building for consideration.

“This tremendous award confirms the Center for the Visual Arts project achieved two vital goals,” said Kathleen Keys, interim director of the School of the Arts. “The creation of a world class art research, teaching and learning facility, and simultaneously a brilliant work of architecture and design. The CVA mirrors Boise State’s commitment to the arts and significantly impacts the regional landscape with remarkable and dazzling contemporary architecture.”

Now in their 26th year, the American Architecture Awards are the nation’s highest public awards given by a non-commercial, non-trade affiliated, public arts, culture and educational institution.

Center for the Visual Arts at twilight: Senior Project Manager Doug Suddreth has given many building tours. He said he always points out the building’s curved limestone walls. Consultants devised a method of applying limestone to a honeycomb backing so the stone could bend to fit the unique shape of the building. Allison Corona photo

“This program has become the single, most important recognition for design excellence in the United States, honoring known and celebrated firms, as well as young upstart offices for their smaller scaled, more challenging projects,” said Christian Narkiewicz-Laine, architecture critic and museum president of The Chicago Athenaeum.

Construction of the 97,600-square-foot CVA began in May 2017 and was completed in August 2019. The facility consists of two interconnected buildings: the five-story curved limestone and glass-clad structure that serves as studio space and faculty offices, and the blue stainless steel shingle clad structure that houses galleries and classrooms.

“When I had the opportunity to walk through the building while it was still under construction, I knew that it was going to be an incredibly special place to learn and create. I’m eager to have students, faculty, and staff back in full force in the building in 2021,” said Leslie Durham, interim dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. “It truly is a treasure on our campus, and when it is filled with the creative energy of our campus artists, there’s just no place like it.”

The Chicago Athenaeum website describes the building’s “highly transparent lobby” serving as the “light-filled connective tissue” between the building’s two parts.

The piece continues: “The design serves as a critical gateway into the campus, welcoming students as they head to class and community members as they pass along Capitol Boulevard. With an inspiring new identity, the building puts visual arts at Boise State on par with facilities at leading institutions, becoming a signature gateway to the campus that reaches out to invite all in.”

The building project was managed by staff from Boise State’s architectural and engineering department under the design direction of the University Architect, Ann Wozniak.

“Despite our challenges on this project, this building is a great example of how a truly collaborative design effort is what makes it so successful, achieving four awards and counting,” said Wozniak.

People explore the Center for the Visual arts
Senior Project Manager Doug Suddreth noted the building’s blue cladding, also seen here in the building’s interior wall. The cladding is stainless steel. Its color was created by immersing the metal in an acid bath. “The cladding takes on the color of the sky,” said Suddreth. “It’s almost like the building is alive.” Photo Patrick Sweeney

The CVA has won past awards: Project of the Year and Top Projects People’s Choice awards from the Idaho Business Review and the title of Best Overall Project in the 2020 Building Excellence Awards presented by the City of Boise.

Senior Project Manager Doug Suddreth has worked with the university for more than 20 years and has given around 40 tours of the CVA. The most common reaction from people seeing the building for the first time? “Wow!” said Suddreth. He considers working on the CVA the high point of his career.

Receiving this most recent award has been overwhelming, he said, but not surprising.

“We always knew this would be an award winner. It was always intended to be unique and a bit risky. It’s a very well-deserved honor because so many people were involved, so many hours of examining materials, shapes and forms and exploring how the building could do essential functions, while still presenting itself as an art building. And that’s what happened.”

See an online exhibition of the 2020 American Architecture Award recipients on the Chicago Athenaeum Museum of Architecture and Design website.