ArtsQuest Center Given Architectural Award

American Institute of Architects, Pennsylvania, gives Bethlehem's Spillman Farmer its highest honor, a Silver Medal, for ArtsQuest Center at SteelStacks.


The American Institute of Architects, Pennsylvania, has awarded a Silver Medal, the organization's highest honor, to of Bethlehem for their design of the .

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 to be a “Building of the Year,” by ArchDaily, an international architectural Website.

John G. Lewis April 05, 2012 at 04:50 PM
Very nice; nery beautiful. Let's see the project to it's completion! What a success story for Bethlehem; like the phoenix rising from it's ashes. The University should recognize itself as a leader now in Bethlehem, seeing that the steel industry is gone; yet conversely, the town, and the citizens themselves, should acknowledge this too. That is to say, we should work together for a brighter future. ----------------------------------------------------------------- I went to the University while steel was still being manufactured in Bethlehem (the 1980's), and the fall of steel took the town for a little spin (unfortunately). So I say there should be mutual respect, and support, for each other. The well known town/gown dichotomy is ridiculous, and it is largely immaterial that Lehigh is a "private" institution. Just some thoughts. -- J. G. Lewis '90
Anne Lawrence April 06, 2012 at 01:36 PM
I love the building and I applaud ArtsQuest for all it has done for the community. This is a very exciting time for Bethlehem. My husband and I go there all the time.
Midge Mellen April 06, 2012 at 03:18 PM
What an accomplishment! The building is stunning and does not compete with the historic beauty oh the original brick structures it pays tribute to. I agree, it is like a phoenix rising out of molten ashes. The building's presence pays tribute to a magnificent industry born and raised by families in Bethlehem.
John G. Lewis April 07, 2012 at 12:31 AM
It's great, I think, that everyone I have heard from loves the new sight, and building. I hope to visit Bethlehem this summer (I live in NH)... and Arts Quest will certainly be one of the places to check out! Much change has come to the city since the 1980's. - John L.


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