Gordon Parks Arts Hall

Completed: 2015
Architect: Valerio Dewalt Train Associates
Address: 5815 S. Kimbark Ave
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The Gordon Parks Arts Hall serves as an anchor to the north side of the University’s Laboratory Schools campus and integrates architectural features inspired by both the school’s original neo-Gothic buildings and the 1962 International Style addition by Perkins+Will. While most of the building’s exterior consists of exposed concrete and glass, the Indiana limestone cladding and slanted glass gables echo similar features in the neighboring Belfield Tower, to which glass-walled corridors at each end of the building serve as physical bridges. Finally, the north wall of glass allows for a feeling of seamless connection to the outside courtyard and gardens.

The three story, 90,000-square-foot building houses a 750-seat theater-in-the-round, a 250-seat black box theater as well as classrooms, studios, a digital media lab, and rehearsal space as well as a two-story lobby and art gallery.

Designed to Educate

The building was designed to complement and enhance the Laboratory School’s focus on “learning by doing,” allowing students to experience artistic processes firsthand and create their own work. Even the arrangement of lighting features is geared toward inquiry and discovery; what appears to be a random arrangement of lights along the central hallway is in fact designed according to the Fibonacci sequence. The building’s concrete frame was also left exposed in many places so that students can become more intimately acquainted with how the structure was built.


While the solar chimneys on the north side of the building were designed to echo the gothic towers around campus, they also serve a functional purpose by providing passive cooling to the building. Air is drawn down through vents and an underground tunnel system. The building features additional solar collecting surfaces facing south and the construction process itself employed sustainable building practices like recycling 95 percent of construction waste and careful maintenance of good indoor air quality.