The Walton Arts Center is the seat of arts and culture in Northwest Arkansas, drawing a broad spectrum of touring artists and performances, and hosting four resident companies. Originally built in 1992, the regional venue has seen significant attendance growth over the past two decades, and found itself straining against a lack of space and heavy, closed-off aesthetic. We were tasked with revitalizing and expanding the facility to create a welcoming, inviting environment – knitting it into the community fabric and showcasing the vibrancy within.
Our first challenge was the building’s orientation. Slightly elevated, and set at a 45 degree angle to the city grid, it felt disengaged from downtown Fayetteville’s street life. Dark tinted glass and an impenetrable brick façade exacerbated the disconnection. Bora addressed this head-on, creating a new lobby and cantilevered porch that spills out onto Dickson Street and forms a prominent threshold for patrons and passers-by. Our goal was to provide a refined yet accessible space, capable of elevating the lively social interactions that take place around a performance.
We wanted to create a sense of lightness, juxtaposed against mass, and selected a warm gray pleated metal skin to compliment the remaining exposed brick exteriors. In homage to Arkansas’ respect for craft and natural materials, we bathed the new double height lobby in soft wood textures, with a rich, sculptural palette of custom furnishings imparting a jewel-like quality.
Bora’s design also realized the full potential of Starr Theater, a spartan black box in the building’s rear that had been appropriated as backstage overflow space for the larger Baum Walker Hall. By relocating storage, support, and administrative services in a new building and expanded basement, and creating an independent entry, we reclaimed the Starr – previously unusable for more than 100 days annually. Today, the entire award-winning building is a bustling civic amenity, programmable year-round.
54,775sf renovation; 15,502sf addition
Merit Award, AIA Arkansas
Venue Excellence Award, International Association of Venue Managers
Polk Stanley Wilcox
Henderson Engineers, Inc.
Engineering Consultants, Inc.
Crafton, Tull & Associates
Ecological Design Group