Installation view of Repeat, Reveal, React: Identities in Flux, an exhibition of works from the collection curated by students under the guidance of Professor Jenny Anger, 2010.

History and Architecture

Bucksbaum Center for the Arts and the Grinnell College Museum of Art

History

The Bucksbaum Center for the Arts (BCA) was built in 1999 to consolidate Grinnell’s art, music, and theatre departments under one roof. The building incorporates two structures, each designed by internationally renowned architects.

The older portion of the center dates from 1961 and was designed by Walter Netsch of the Skidmore, Owings and Merrill firm. This International-style structure was later incorporated into a design by the architectural firm of Cesar Pelli and Associates.

The Bucksbaum Center for the Arts has a radial form that houses each branch of the arts in a separate wing. These varied spaces include Sebring-Lewis Hall, music rehearsal rooms, and three stories of studio rooms for ceramics, painting, drawing, printmaking, and sculpting classes. Flanagan Studio Theatre and scene shop are part of the Department of Theatre and Dance.

The building’s beauty is accentuated by the variety and quality of its construction materials, which include patterned golden brick masonry, white painted steel, and variegated strand board panels, all of which are emblematic of Pelli’s architectural style.

The Faulconer Gallery

Nestled in the heart of the Bucksbaum Center for the Arts is the Faulconer Gallery, which presents exhibits of regional, national, and international significance. This space has moveable wall panels, allowing the gallery to be arranged in many combinations. The gallery’s interior is illuminated by indirect skylights in the clerestory and additional natural lighting from large windows. The far wall of the gallery curves to embrace the circular form of the building. The gallery serves the educational mission of the college while also giving students and the general public the chance to interact with a diverse range of artistic exhibitions, from easel paintings and installation art to drawings and video.

The Architect

Cesar Pelli was born in Argentina and earned his Diploma in Architecture from the University of Tucumán in Argentina. Pelli is best known best for his Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur (at one time the world’s tallest buildings), the World Finance Center in New York, and the International Finance Center in Hong Kong.

Pelli’s work avoids creating a structure for solely aesthetic purposes. He believes “works of architecture never exist by themselves; they are always part of a larger whole.”  Pelli’s work at Grinnell includes the Bucksbaum Center for the Arts (1999), the Joe Rosenfeld ’25 Center (2006), and the Athletic and Fitness Center (phase I, 2005 and Phase II, 2010), created in conjunction with Sasaki Associates on the north end of campus.

Author: Will Schwaller '09

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