The Whitworth University Cowles Music Center received a Merit Award at the 2017 AIA Washington Council Civic Design Awards ceremony on October 26.

Whitworth University’s Cowles Music Center is a duet between musical art and architectural form that successfully exhibits the functionality required in a university music structure. They each share design, rhythm, tempo, and scale. The University desired to elevate the campus’ visual musical experience while creating a modernized facility for exemplary instruction, anticipated program growth, and increased community outreach. Originally built in 1978, the university’s high-profile 25,100 sf two-story, mid-century music building underwent 15,625 sf of upgrades and a 21,415 sf new addition to achieve these objectives. The design team thoughtfully paid homage to the existing building’s architectural fabric and the overall campus context to create a more modern, engaging, and timeless structure.

The chosen linear relationship of the addition to the existing building was leveraged to form an open, inner circulation spine as a transitional element to bridge old to new. This two-story, day-lit “Main Street” runs the entire east-to-west length of the building. This “gasket” delicately allows the new addition to functionally and architecturally touch the former north exterior elevation creating a classic brick backdrop for all open, interior common areas. Hardness of exposed structural steel and metal decking, adjacent to warm timber glue lams align to create a rhythm showing progressive movement from one end to another. These materials serve as contextual reminders of the campus’ vast number of pine trees and expressed Northwest culture. A suspended bridge eases wayfinding from the second story classrooms in the old building to all new rehearsal spaces. This organization also creates passive student/faculty interactions in naturally occurring ways. Abundant spaces for study, learning, and relaxing are equipped with durable furnishings that speak to the mid-century modern flavor. Inviting and transparent entry statements a teach end increase front door exposure from both east and west and allow the eye to fill the gap between two eras of architecture.

About AIA Wash Council Civic Design Awards

The 2017 Civic Design Awards celebrates the best examples of what can be realized in public projects when architects and civic clients work together to achieve quality design. AIA Washington awards these clients and the architects who have demonstrated an appreciation for the excellent in project design. These projects represent the finest standards in innovation, sustainability, building performance, and overall integration with the surrounding community and coordination with the needs of the client.

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