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SUNY Potsdam’s new performing arts center building reflects north counrty landscapes

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POTSDAM — The new Performing Arts Center at SUNY Potsdam is being built to reflect the outdoor scenes in Northern New York that inspired its architect.

The design of the $48 million building is mainly the work of architect Lorenzo Mattii, of Pfeiffer Partners Architects, who said his inspiration came from landscapes in the north country.

“After going to some of the meetings by car from New York City, what we started looking at was the context of the Adirondacks nearby,” Mr. Mattii said. “The building is really inspired by the landscape in and around Potsdam and also portions of the Adirondacks.”

One aspect of the 100,000 square foot building that Mr. Mattii said resembled the peaks of the Adirondacks is the angles of the roof.

“The roof forms look like series of silhouettes of mountains as they recede into the atmosphere,” he said. “Every single time I’ve walked around in the building I would find a new view, a new perspective, a new look, which I think is great for a building. I don’t think anyone will get bored of it.”

The project began in April 2011 and is scheduled to open next spring. The building will feature major performance spaces such as the Proscenium Theater which seats up to 350 people, the Black Box Theater which seats over 200 people and the Dance Performance Hall which also seats over 200 people. The building will also have audio, design, education and lighting labs as well as recording studios, dance studios, costume rooms and dressing rooms. When finished, the building will have a silver certification for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design.

Deborah L. Dudley, director of communication for SUNY Potsdam, said Pfeiffer Partners Architects is known for designing performing arts centers and she said it was fortunate that the school was able to secure them as the architects. Ms. Dudley said the building’s design was to incorporate all of the different seasons in the north country.

“The angles and color palate and the way the windows were placed to let in light all reference some of the natural palate throughout the seasons,” she said. “When it’s finished, you’ll see inside some of the summer color palate, and outside a lot of fall and winter.”

Mr. Mattii said the majority of the walls in the building will be a shimmery silver, and there will be splashes of bold colors. The lobby colors will be pink, purple, red and orange, creating a warmer color palate which will be inviting to students, Mr. Mattii said.

“We wanted to create a warm place where people want to hang out, but at the same time we wanted to use some of these influences that were found up in that region,” he said. “Specific to the Potsdam region and the Adirondacks in the winter time, when one might think that there are only grays and whites and icy cold waters to think of, there’s a lot of color that just contrasts itself against those base colors of the winter.”

Mr. Mattii said that although much of the design and colors were inspired by car rides and imagery in the north country, he and his team spent several hours researching the area as well.

Patrick G. Reagen, construction manager, said the building will be one of the best performing arts centers in the nation, competing only with some in New York City.

“You really don’t find a facility like this outside of New York City,” he said. “It’s state of the art.”

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