The central Commons Cube links the building's two wings and creates a new campus gateway landmark.
An amphitheater with sculpture plinths forms an outdoor classroom.
Trapezoidal floor plate, walls and sloped roof contribute to the building’s sculptural form, giving the building a dynamic and changing presence.
The building relates to the surrounding campus buildings in scale and proportion, and offers a contemporary interpretation of commonly used architectural elements.
Within the entry lobby and lower level of the Commons Cube, pivoting walls offer pin-up space, and can be closed to form a flexible classroom.
An extension of the main stair forms an informal critique area.
Instructional studios support current pedagogical needs and were designed for flexibility and adaptability.
All studios and workshops are equipped with advanced safety and ventilation systems.
Sealed concrete floors and exposed ductwork befits the utilitarian aesthetic of the building.
Transparent and translucent materials reveal the arts activities within.
Located at a key campus entrance, the new Studio Arts Building creates a new gateway landmark.
Every last inch of the Studio Arts Building was designed to promote creativity and social interaction.
A new pedestrian path links the Studio Arts Building with the nearby Integrated Science Building.
Courtyard level plan
Street level plan
Second level plan
Studio Arts Building, University of Massachusetts Amherst
Amherst, Massachusetts
The new Studio Arts Building at UMass Amherst brings together a variety of arts programs that were previously scattered around campus. The building fosters a multidisciplinary approach to art, a trend that has been embraced by the Art Department through the development of its curriculum. By housing both faculty, undergraduate, and graduate student studios, the building enables more interaction and collaboration, and also strengthens the sense of community among the Art department. Flexible instructional studios and workshops, in addition to studios for students and faculty, pin-up and critique areas, exhibit spaces, and communal gathering areas all feature state-of-the-art equipment, safety features, and proper MEP systems, providing healthy learning environments.

After analyzing three different sites, an existing parking lot located at the intersection of North Pleasant Street and Infirmary Way was selected for the site of the new Studio Arts Building. This prime location is a key campus point of entry, allowing the building to form a campus gateway. The building was positioned at the southern corner of the site, closest to the intersection, to create an axial focal point that helps redefine the eastern campus district.

This project is part of a broader master plan effort to ease existing student flow across campus. A future landscaped pedestrian district was planned that links arts and sciences and rejuvenates the east side of campus. The transparent Commons Cube is the axial focal point to the campus entry. The building’s park-like setting features a variety of outdoor studio and event spaces, including an amphitheater that overlooks changeable sculpture plinths.

This major public research university is home to a variety of architectural styles—from historic Beaux Arts structures to significant modernist buildings. The materials and details of the Studio Arts Building took cues from commonly used campus elements, including brick, punched windows, white trim detailing, chimneys, and sloped roofs. The building’s scale and sculptural form creates a visual play in perspective to passersby as they approach and move around the building.

The building’s V-shaped plan is organized around the central Commons Cube that serves as the primary entrance point into the building. This space features a generous stair and visually connects the two most populated levels, encouraging chance meetings and interaction. Primary teaching and shops functions occur on the Ground Level.

The Ground level is filled with natural light and features high, open spaces. The shops are located in the East wing, and feature outdoor patio work spaces, and direct access to screened loading and trash areas. Instructional studios for painting, sculpture, and ceramics are located on the ground floor, convenient for non-major and undergraduate students. In addition, a number of faculty and graduate student studios are located on this level, increasing the activity and the security of the facility.

The Street Level occupies a half-floor on the West wing of the building, and provides a central location for photography and printmaking. The upper level houses most of the individual studio spaces in both single and double-occupancy spaces for faculty and graduate students, and in two large open studios organized by flexible partitions for undergraduate students.

To improve energy efficiency, program adjacencies were determined according to their ventilation and energy requirements. Energy recovery units regain 75 to 85 percent of the energy from exhausted air, and variable drives and premium efficiency motors on the energy recovery units, chilled water pumps, and hot water pumps further contribute to the energy efficiency. Other green building features include occupant sensors, extensive daylighting, exterior bris soleil, light-colored roofing material, low water usage, solar powered plumbing fixtures, and native plantings. Specific requests for operable windows were accommodated to enhance user comfort and support the direct connection between indoor and outdoor workspaces.




51,000 SF


Robert Benson