Sarofim School of Fine Arts

Innovative Architectural Design

  • News Image

Alum, Ivan “Van” Phillips ’67 causes a stir with his design for performing arts centers

Van Phillips was awarded a US Copyright for the architectural design of “A Concert Hall that transforms into a Full Working Theatre.” The design is quickly causing a flash fire among performing arts educators.

When Van Phillips, the principle design consultant at Jones & Phillips Associates, and Fred Gore, senior design architect with URS Corporation, sat down to plan their most recent project for Jenison Public Schools, Phillips saw the potential to make a major leap forward in performing arts center design.

They made that leap designing The Jenison Public Schools Center for the Arts. The space features a 90-foot stage opening, at its full width, the stage can accommodate a large high school orchestra, and a choir in the loft that surrounds the stage. To accommodate a theatrical production, tall sliding walls can move onto the stage to form the proscenium at 40 feet wide. Over the top of the forestage, Wenger Corporation created a 6,000-pound front-of-house eyebrow that serves as the ceiling for the acoustical shaping. The eyebrow assembly is 17 feet deep and 48 feet long, and it features a major speaker cluster within the eyebrow structure. To achieve the flexibility Phillips and Gore planned for the space, contractor Beck Studios turned to J. R. Clancy for the required rigging.

Phillips and Gore have completed more than twenty projects together. “For years, I’ve been saying to Fred, ‘We’re doing it backwards,’” said Phillips. “Every school and small college we do are more driven by music than by drama. Drama programs are relatively small, and music programs are huge, and in high schools they involve as much as a third of the student body in some kind of music. Yet, we’ve been building theatres and trying to put the orchestra on that proscenium stage.”

“We need to build a concert hall and have it work as a theatre. The beauty of this design revolves around achieving real concert hall acoustics for music and eliminating the need for moving orchestra shell towers which are always in the way for drama and have potential danger when moved. In this concept it is the theatre technical students who do the conversion and not music students and their faculty.” explains Phillips.

Video of the new Art Center may be viewed here