Center for the Arts, University of Wisconsin – La Crosse
Architect: BWZ Architects Inc.
Owner: State of Wisconsin, Department of Administration, Division of Facilities Development
Contractor: Fowler & Hammer Inc.
Twin flights of 24 exterior concrete steps within battered limestone retaining walls led up to the lobby entrance at the University of Wisconsin – La Crosse Center for the Arts. As conceived in 1972 the effect must have been dramatic, but in place of the crumbling remains of the stairs the program called for a renovation and expansion of the existing entry, an elevator addition, and enhanced identity.
The new 4,685 SF addition provides an accessible route to the primary First Floor lobby level serving the Annett Recital Hall and Toland Theater. The entry vestibule is pulled back from street with an expansive terrace developed along Vine Street for vehicular and bus drop off and the arrival of pedestrians from the parking lot across Vine. Low site walls capped with a slatted black locust bench are placed in front of the masonry wall east of the entry and at the landscaped berm to the west. Limestone blocks salvaged from the original site are used to define the new landscaping.
The Lower Lobby opens off the sidewalk terrace through a vestibule, leading to an elevator on the left and a broad, cast-in-situ terrazzo stair on the right. The semi-underground space is lit from above with natural light from an overlook at the west end and from the east-facing window at the stair landing, which frames a view of the distant Grandad Bluff. The two-sided elevator is accessed from beneath the two-story overlook and arrives facing the Bluff view. The 9 ft. wide stair leads to the upper level and directly into the existing First Floor Lobby, which serves as a pre-function area for the performance venues. Both tall spaces feature the Poulsen “Patera” pendant light fixture.
Minnesota Dolomite Limestone wraps from the front facade, around the exterior wall, past the east windows and into the interior space. The limestone clad columns and elevator tower further serve to identify the new Entry as a welcoming place that embodies the theater and performing arts program at the UW La Crosse.
Photos: Fowler & Hammer Inc.