Technically, “ARTS Special Topics 191” is an introductory drawing class, but Associate Professor of Art Read Baldwin ’84 engaged his students to use the art form as a tool to re-evaluate some campus spaces through design.
Baldwin got his inspiration for the project from the master plan, an ongoing vision of how the Kenyon landscape will look in the future. He decided to let his students come up with their own additions, based on their experiences of living on the Hill.
“I sent them out across campus to come up with their least favorite places,” he said. Their list wasn’t long, but there was a lot of consensus on which buildings could be improved: Mather and McBride Residence Halls, Gund Commons, the “main street” area, and Olin Library.
Baldwin then let them make the spaces better, either through redesigning them or tearing them down and starting from scratch.
Garrison Block ’16, a studio art major from Morristown, New Jersey, chose to work on the main street or downtown Gambier area along Gaskin Avenue. He moved buildings like the bookstore and the deli, changing the architecture and creating a recessed courtyard.
“It was very different from any type of assignment I’ve ever gotten before because it was a lot of conceptualizing space and considering things you wouldn’t typically consider for an art project,” Block said. “It’s my first time doing anything with architecture and city planning.”
Baldwin said he particularly liked Block’s idea – after he got over the radical nature of it – because it branched Kenyon out from just the north-south corridor of Middle Path to give it east-west, or horizontal, movement.
Audrey Nation ’15, a double major in studio art and economics from Charleston, South Carolina, chose to rebuild Olin completely. “The library is one of the buildings on campus that I never really even went into,” she said.
In her design, she opened up the space, bringing in more natural light with tall windows and an open atrium extending up three floors in front. Toward the back, she created smaller spaces, but still with tall ceilings, and a balcony that faces west to catch sunsets. For the building’s exterior, she kept glass and stone to reference some of the other buildings around it.
“I wanted to take ideas from the neo-Gothic revival collegian architecture type stuff and hopefully create something that doesn’t stick out and looks like it belongs on the campus,” she said.
While this project is just one of four required for the class, Baldwin said he was pleased with the results. “Design can affect everything else we do.”