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"Precinct for the Arts" imagined for historic downtown armouries

Renovating Windsor’s downtown armouries provides an excellent opportunity to create a new “precinct for the arts” that would promote inspiration and serendipitous interdisciplinary collaboration, according to one of the architects overseeing the project.

Architect Paul Cravit

Architect Paul Cravit.

It will be a place where “someone who’s up all night editing a film might bump into someone who’s working on a painting who might bump into someone else who’s writing a great new piece of music,” said Paul Cravit, a senior principal and design director at CS&P Architects.

Along with colleagues Craig Goodman and Susan Spencer Levin, Cravit spent last Saturday at an all-day workshop soliciting feedback from faculty, staff and students from the School of Visual Arts, the School of Music and the Department of Communication, Media and Film on their ideas for renovating the building. The workshop kicked off the Friday afternoon before, with the architects unveiling their three design options for the historical structure.

“We want to create a space where art work and creation don’t have boundaries,” Goodman said.

The university announced last year it will take over the armouries. In November, Senate approved a plan to merge the schools of music and visual arts into one academic unit to be housed in the historic armouries building, located on University Avenue East in the heart of the city’s downtown core.

Each of the three options for the armouries includes studio space, offices and classrooms, and will be designed in such a way to encourage collegial creative thinking. Highlights of the plans include a performance chamber as well as a large “making studio.”

The architects – who are also redesigning The Windsor Star’s building for the School of Social Work and the Centre for Executive and Professional Education – emphasized the need to maintain the building’s heritage features.

Veronika Mogyorody, assistant provost and academic architectural advisor, praised the team as one of the best-known firms in Canada whose forte is in working with academic institutions.

“They’ve been an absolute delight to work with,” she said.

Both provost Leo Groarke and Cecil Houston, dean of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, encouraged those who attended the workshops to be bold and innovative with their feedback and ideas.

“It’s an investment in you and in future generations of students,” Dr. Houston said. “You have an opportunity to have your voice heard at this point in the development of the project. You’re serving as the harbinger for future generations of students.”