posted on October 08, 2013
(Beloit, WI) By Beloit College
The Board of Trustees of Beloit College has selected 2013 National Design Award winner Studio Gang Architects to lead its efforts to convert a century-old power plant into an activity and recreation center. (Press photos are available here.)
The college’s trustees approved the selection on Saturday after a series of updates regarding the college’s ongoing partnership with Alliant Energy’s Wisconsin utility, which has been working with college officials for more than a year to explore a possible sale of the Blackhawk Generating Station in Beloit. Alliant Energy officials and the college recently outlined a three-year window aimed at aligning and connecting their efforts so that the college and Alliant Energy would formalize a transition of the property in 2016, should all go well.
“We’re picking up speed,” said President Scott Bierman. “Alliant Energy and the college have spent more than a year together investigating this opportunity and its challenges. We have a shared belief in, and enthusiasm for, this project and we’re ready to accelerate and further align our efforts.”
“This project should be a model—for connecting college to community, campus to river, and our city’s past to its future while honoring the role Alliant Energy and its employees played in powering our state’s growth over a century,” Bierman said. “This is a vision Studio Gang is already helping shape and make possible. We are thrilled to see what they can teach us, discover, and do for the college and our region.”
Chicago-based Studio Gang is recognized as one of architecture’s most innovative, well regarded, and closely watched firms—and one uniquely interested in projects aimed at connecting, enhancing, and restoring urban and natural landscapes. The firm is led by MacArthur Fellow and FastCompany Master of Design, Jeanne Gang, FAIA. In just the last year, Gang and her firm have been the subject of a solo exhibition at the Art Institute of Chicago and feted in the Wall Street Journal Magazine (“A Renegade Architect Connects Cities and the Natural World”). In September, Gang and Managing Principal Mark Schendel accepted the 2013 National Design Award in Architecture from the Smithsonian’s Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum at a White House reception. Studio Gang’s work is designed to resonate with its specific site and culture while addressing larger global themes such as reuse and sustainability.
A selection committee comprised of Beloit trustees, staff, faculty, and students selected Studio Gang “for their creativity, talent, vision, and care, but most of all—their enthusiasm for approaching this project as both collaborator and partner, learner and leader,” said committee co-chair and Dean of Students Christina Klawitter. Gang was one of five national firms approached (“recruited,” Klawitter says) for the project. The committee presented their selection to Bierman and the trustees at the October 5 meeting of the board in Beloit, which convened in the college’s LEED Platinum-certified Center for the Sciences building, whose northwest corner sits a little more than 100 yards away from the power plant.
“The Studio Gang team is very excited to partner with Beloit College,” stated Jeanne Gang. “Together we can transform this historic structure into a new hub for wellness, green power, and great architecture. By reflecting Beloit’s core values in the design, values shared by our team, we will create a model that will bring many benefits to the college, city, and region. This is a project that has the potential to inspire other communities around the globe.”
“Our partnership with Beloit College has taken another important step forward with an agreement on an outline of steps to the potential ownership transfer of the Blackhawk Generation Station,” said Patricia Kampling, Chairman, President and CEO—Alliant Energy. “We share the College’s excitement in the hiring of Studio Gang Architects to transform the riverfront property into a state-of-the-art campus center for its student body, and Alliant Energy is pleased to play a role in this innovative project.”
- Alliant Energy and Beloit College have agreed upon a three-year window for developing this project. Under this arrangement, Beloit will have three years to raise the $30 million needed for the project, after which the college and utility will formalize a sale of the property to the college. In the meantime, Alliant Energy is moving ahead with remediation work at the Blackhawk Generating Station (which is adjacent to campus and sits astride the Rock River).
- Final sale of the building to the college will be contingent on, among other things, Beloit successfully raising $30 million to fund the purchase and restoration.
- The hiring of Studio Gang at this point in the process is intended to help inform Alliant Energy’s building preparation efforts, including determining what interior components would be removed and recycled when fundraising is completed, and what could remain at the property. Formalizing the college’s plans for the building in the year ahead, including its design and interaction with its surrounding area (it sits just north of the city of Beloit’s downtown district), is also seen as an important component of the college’s fundraising efforts.
- Beloit College has already completed an initial, campus-wide programming study that informed and enlarged its initial plans for the facility. The college believes the powerhouse project will dramatically enhance Beloit’s residential experience, complete a 25-year redevelopment of the city’s riverside, and become a model for sustainable and cost-conscious renewal. A semester-long programming study for the building (completed in spring 2012) yielded a list of 10 pressing space needs for the college—from a 150-seat public auditorium to a competition-grade swimming pool.
- More on the college and Alliant Energy’s work to date is available here.