Creative complex coming to campus in 2023
Plans for the Innovative Maker and Learning Complex remain on schedule, with a design that will centralize RIT’s makerspace and performing arts and provide much needed classroom and study spaces.
Design work on the multipurpose facility continued after the COVID-19 pandemic closed the campus in March.
Architects from the Boston-based firm William Rawn Associates Architects Inc. had already visited campus several times to meet with administrators, faculty, staff, and students.
William Rawn Associates
Architects from Rawn and RIT, working with Rochester-based HBT Architects, then presented design reviews and milestone presentations to RIT leadership via Zoom and moved the project forward, noted James Yarrington, RIT university architect and director of Planning and Design Services. When the New York state restrictions eased in June, Welliver, the construction manager, began to relocate the underground utilities, an essential first step before the official groundbreaking.
The next phase of the project will finalize the detailed designs and complete the bidding packages. The current plan is for work on the foundation to start in spring 2021, and the building to open in fall 2023.
RIT President David Munson envisions the building as a creative hub that will capture the spirit of the Imagine RIT: Creativity and Innovation Festival. The complex will embody RIT’s focus on technology, the arts, and design and give visitors a way to “understand RIT in 15 minutes,” Munson said.
The complex will include a large makerspace component and project team spaces with glass garage doors that will enable the student work to flow into the public space, Yarrington said. Pieces of the makerspace and performing arts components are connected to Monroe Hall and Wallace Library with glass bridges.
“They are not little links—they are curvilinear, and one is two stories—and they create together an oval public space that is open air in between,” Yarrington said. “That space will be regraded so it’s an ADA-accessible pathway and landscaped courtyard on the hillside. The transition from the Gleason Circle transportation plaza up to the Quarter Mile will be exciting.”
William Rawn Associates
The performing arts component will include individual rehearsal spaces, a large dance instruction studio, and a music rehearsal studio. A black-box/glass-box theater seating 180 can be reconfigured to allow for, or block, light into the space.
The facility will also add 1,500 classroom seats to the campus, with 22 standard-size flexible classrooms and five extra-large classrooms that can seat 150 students each.
Construction costs will exceed $100 million, making it the largest undertaking since building the Henrietta campus, which opened in 1968. The facility will be funded, in part, by $17.5 million from RIT trustee and alumnus Austin McChord, part of his record $50 million gift to RIT in 2017, as well as financing through the Dormitory Authority of the State of New York.
Constructing the building implies a lot of changes and renovations to the RIT Libraries.
Current plans, Yarrington said, shift most of the space on the third and fourth floors of the library to classroom and study space. At this time, the RIT Archive Collections will be renovated and remain on the third floor.
Changes to the Cary Graphic Arts Collection on the second floor are necessary to accommodate access between the library and the IMLC, Yarrington noted. Browsing collections will remain on the first and second floors.
Renovations will open up the first floor of the library and add classrooms and a large makerspace to the A level. The ground floor will connect to the IMLC and still lead to the transportation plaza. The corridors will be widened to accommodate the increased traffic.
“The design has continued to evolve very nicely,” Yarrington said. “I can’t think of an academic institution that has a building anything like this. We’re excited about it.”