The American Institute of Architects, Pennsylvania, has awarded a Silver Medal, the organization's highest honor, to Spillman Farmer Architects of Bethlehem for their design of the ArtsQuest Center at SteelStacks.
The ArtsQuest Center, which opened almost a year ago in the shadow of the iconic, 285-foot-tall Bethlehem Steel blast furnaces, is home to the Musikfest Café, the Frank Banko Alehouse Cinemas, a gift shop and a number of other spaces for performance and private and community functions.
AIA jurors praised the project saying, “The design captures the energy and utilitarian beauty that the best of the industrial revolution once offered. At the same time it demonstrates the power that a truly successful marriage of architecture and program can exert in bringing new purpose and hope to the most abandoned parts of our community."
Spillman Farmer Design Principal Joseph N. Biondo responded, saying, “The architecture of the ArtsQuest Center is influenced by its industrial site. It embraces our region and its culture, recognizing the material and human spirit that fueled the industry of this country. It is an honor to be recognized by the AIA for our dedication to craft and human-centered design.”
The building is wrapped with locally-manufactured pre-cast concrete panels, which are mounted with their rough, hand-screed surface facing outward. The Center’s panels celebrate both the process and the people that produced them, by revealing the marks of their production.
Inserted within this structural concrete strongbox is a skeletal steel frame that honors the site’s steelmaking history. The skeleton is finished in International Orange, an iconic color borrowed from many of Bethlehem Steel’s most recognizable fabrication projects, including the Golden Gate Bridge.
It is a $26.6 million, 66,000-square-foot centerpiece of an arts, entertainment and tourism district still being developed at the western end of the Bethlehem Steel brownfield.
This is no less than the second major architectural recognition the project has received since opening. Earlier this year, the ArtsQuest Center was nominated and under consideration to be a “Building of the Year,” by ArchDaily, an international architectural Website.