Renovated Princeton Cultural Center Receives Design Award

February 10, 2011

AIA-NJ Honors Team at Ann Beha Architects

A Princeton University cultural center that was named after the Ivy League’s first African-American dean and designed by Ann Beha Architects of Boston, Mass., has won an Honor Award in the “Built” category from AIA-NJ.

The award for the renovation and expansion of the Carl A. Fields Center for Equality and Cultural Understanding in Princeton, N.J., was announced this past September at AIA-NJ’s annual “Design Day” conference at Bally’s Atlantic City in Atlantic City, N.J. The design award was presented at the annual AIA-NJ awards dinner to be held in January 2011 in Princeton.

“We are excited to see projects being created at this high level of innovation and quality in New Jersey,” said Jason Kliwinski, AIA, LEED AP, 2010 president of AIA-NJ. “I am honored to recognize these architects for their dedication and commitment to their craft and to the architecture community.”

Before any designs were drafted, Ann Beha, FAIA, principal and lead architect on the Fields Center project, along with senior associate Scott B. Aquilina, AIA, and associate Edward O. Rice, AIA, LEED AP, were asked to do a master plan determining if the current location could accommodate future growth or if the Center should move across the street to an 1890s-era Italianate landmark building.

The 2005 plan determined that the best option was to renovate and expand the former “Elm Club” building at 58 Prospect Ave., which had been used as a private eating club for Princeton students for 100 years before closing in 1990. The building, which is one of a number of mansions on Prospect Avenue used for eating clubs, was chosen due to its large size and expansive outdoor space.

The firm has extensive experience renovating and repurposing historic structures and properties including the landmark Symphony Hall in Boston, Mass., home to the Boston Pops and The Boston Symphony Orchestra; the University of Pennsylvania Music Building in Philadelphia, Pa.; and Wellesley College’s Alumnae Hall in Wellesley, Mass.

“Our firm has a reputation for renovating historic buildings in a creative yet sensitive way,” Aquilina said. “We wanted to save this historic eating club and figure out the best way to reuse it, expand it and equip it for the variety of events that will take place in it.”

The renovation of the 18,000-square-foot mansion included adding a wing and a connecting lobby. The expansion added 5,000 square feet to the building. The renovation also included new landscaping and grounds, creating a setting for outdoor activities with a tent area for special events.

“The design goal was to integrate new and old elements, presenting them as one seamless building set in a one-acre landscape,” explained Beha.

The new Fields Center, which opened in 2009, has been designed to accommodate many functions and events, including facilities for community tutorials, seminar programs, a library resource center and lecture and conference spaces, as well as a café and staff offices. The Center also has multi-purpose gallery spaces that can be used for musical performances, art exhibitions and academic and social activities.

The firm also designed the interior, using vibrant colors inspired by the quilting work of Gee’s Bend, an African-American women’s community in Alabama. The Gee’s Bend quilts were reinterpreted in the carpet and furnishings, using dynamic color combinations of purples, golds, reds and yellows.

The Fields Center was originally established as the Third World Center in 1971 to support students of color who were arriving at Princeton in increasing numbers, as well as to create greater awareness and understanding of racial and ethnic diversity among members of the campus community.

The Third World Center was renamed in July 2002 in honor of Dr. Carl A. Fields, who, at Princeton, became the first African-American dean of an Ivy League university and served the education field for more than 40 years in roles of leadership, development and improvement.

Today, the new Center plays a crucial role in the Princeton University community, advancing its goals as an educational institution, providing training and education and offering social and cultural programs that prepare students and non-students to succeed in a diverse world.

AIA-NJ announced a total of 11 design awards at the gala. In addition to the Fields Center, the other winners included:

In the “Built” category, the other winner in addition to Ann Beha Architects is KSS Architects for the Human Rights Institute at Kean University in Union, N.J.

The Merit Award winners in the “Built” category were Ikon.5 Architects for the Yogi Berra Museum & Learning Center in Little Falls, N.J., and two awards for KSS Architects for the Cornell University School of Hotel Administration in Ithaca, N.Y., and the Dorrance H. Hamilton Public Media Commons at WHYY in Philadelphia, Pa.

The Honors Award in the “Unbuilt” category was awarded to HDR CUH2A for the Biomedical Educational Research Institute at Seoul National University in Seoul, Korea.

The Merit Award winners in the “Design/Build” category were Midouhas Architecture for the Vlahakis residence in Harvey Cedars, N.J., and Minervini Vandermark Architecture for a studio office at 360 14th St. in Hoboken, N.J.

Merit Award winners in the “Interior Architecture” category were Hugh A. Boyd Architect for the Landmark supermarket in Manila, Republic of the Philippines, and Joshua Zinder Architecture + Design for the Waku Ghin restaurant in Marina Bay Sands, Republic of Singapore.

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