The VPAC Building and the Site   VPAC is conceived as a contemporary urban monument. That is, it possesses the scale and drama of traditional monuments, but does not insist on a single architectural expression. In this, it breaks from the conformity implicit in classical monuments that one single expression is needed in order to serve a single, homogeneous public. Rather, this building is composed of a diverse grouping of elements which both reflects and confirms the various and independent constituencies found in the arts, the University, and the city as a whole.  It is composed of a group of three primary elements, resting on an articulated ground surface. The three elements are: the Performance Tower, the tectonically expressive Arts and Education Wing, and tying them together, the bright and animated Fifth Theater — functioning as lobby, main circulation element, and an experimental venue in its own right. This arrangement is seen from campus, where the elements have a strong, sculptural quality and is especially clear along the Eisenhower Expressway where the major building elements align to form an articulated architectural wall.
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  Fifth Theater    Tying together the Performance Hall and the Arts and Education Wing is a building element that combines circulation for the project and a lobby for the performance venues — what has been named here the Fifth Theater. As a circulation element for both education and performance, it is a place where movement and serendipitous interactions happen as a matter of course. Its sinuous form provides unusual and constantly shifting vistas across the building and to the city and campus outside. As a result, a trip to a concert will not be an isolated experience. Rather, entering the building means that one sees,and moves amongst, the creating activities of the college. While this project is designed to provide many informal performance areas in and around the building, this space is expressly designed for that purpose. Its curving parapets, staircases, and walkways create a strongly theatrical setting for new performances. Just as importantly, through the incorporation of projection and sound equipment the Fifth Theater is a venue for experimental music and art. In this way, the Fifth Theater can be thought of as an instrument to be played.
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  Profile and Skin   In Chicago it is understood that some buildings can be urban monuments. From the Monadnock building to the Hancock tower, strong and dark building profiles often characterize important projects in the city. The easternmost volume of the new VPAC — the Performance Tower — presents a contemporary reinterpretation of such a profile. Rising 190 feet, it has a dramatic presence yet projects an air of lyrical lightness. This dual, seriocomic quality of the Tower gives it the impression of being a character in the city. This quality is achieved in part through its profile and in part through its distinctive exterior skin. Like a pumice stone in comparison to a granite block, this skin is rendered atmospherically; a cloud-like ethereal mass. The skin is composed as one, large-scale surface design which is then delaminated into three distinct and colorful layers of metallic tracery. Like the dots of a Seurat painting, this tracery is intricate when observed up-close but coalesces into a coherent pattern at a distance. The delamination of the surface has a further advantage. As one moves by, whether on foot or bike, from the expressway or train, the layers shift past one another animating the entire surface. In three places along the east facade the skin can also retract, revealing large windows into performance venues.
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