One of the world’s most celebrated architects visited Eastern Illinois University on Wednesday to talk about his design philosophy and explain his plans for the Doudna Fine Arts Center.
Antoine Predock took obvious delight in presenting a slide show of some of his works and enlightening the large crowd at the Tarble Arts Center with the ideas behind his designs.
He showed the same excitement for the Doudna Fine Arts Center as he did for some of his many other out-of-the-box creations, all of which follow his idea of marrying architecture to its geographical surroundings.
“When people ask, ‘What kind of architect is he?’ that’s when words fail me,” said Jeff Lynch, associate dean of the EIU College of Arts and Humanities.
Predock doesn’t fit in any usual architectural classes, Lynch said. “I think he just transcends those categories,” he said. “Antoine is uniquely American.”
The Doudna Fine Arts Center – currently under construction, with an estimated completion date of August 2007 – will include an 85-foot-high wing that will stand out literally and figuratively on the campus.
“It will not be unlike a grain elevator, punctuating the great prairie,” Predock said.
Predock was chosen for the job from a field of more than 40 applicants, including some well-known architects, in part for his excitement about the university’s plan to construct the addition across Seventh Street.
Two of the unsuccessful applicants had tried to steer the university away from the idea, but “Antoine came in totally pumped about the aspect,” Lynch said. “He came in and blew our socks off. We didn’t so much choose him as he chose us, and that’s been his great gift to Eastern.”
Predock’s design helped bring to life the university’s hope for a building that would serve as a community of artists, blending the art, music and theater departments, while also connecting the campus to the greater community.
The idea was intriguing for Predock, a painter who was active in the dance community in New York City in the late 1950s.
The plans Predock drew up combine all of the building’s elements into “a dance of the arts” that will become “a glorious destination – an intriguing, mysterious destination – that draws you in,” Predock said. “I think it (walking through the building) will be a marvelous kind of episode, no matter which way you’re going.”
Predock described the concept as “experiential architecture.”
“In this building, you’ll come in, you’ll wander, you’ll be ensnared,” Lynch said. “It’s kind of an architecture of discovery.”
Following his remarks, Predock visited the construction site for an in-person update on its progress.
Predock, who is based in Albuquerque, N.M., recently joined the ranks of Thomas Jefferson, Frank Lloyd Wright, I.M. Pei and Cesar Pelli when he received the 2006 AIA Gold Medal. The award – given by the American Institute of Architects only 62 times in its 150-year history – honors people whose bodies of work have had a lasting influence on the theory and practice of architecture.