Client:
Argo Community High School District 217

Richard & Sharon Portillo Performing Arts Center at Argo Community High School

Remodeling the 100-year-old auditorium was not an option due to its location within the building. Bringing this existing space up to 21st Century educational standards was cost prohibitive. This made the most significant challenge finding the space for a 37,000+ sf addition. The site bounded by 2 major roads and dense residential and industrial sites added to the complexity.

Presented with many design options, the School Board and District Administration chose a location.

This design introduces novelty to the campus through a bridge at the second-floor level. The design team’s solution preserves a drive that provided access to the Auto-shop classroom and the main bus queuing area. This solution allows the buses to pass underneath. It maintains vehicle circulation around the site and provides a secure, indoor connection for students.

A primary goal of this project was to create a performance space that works as a learning space. There are Band, Choral and Theater Classrooms. Teachers provide activities such as improvisation, note-taking, and peer-to-peer learning as ways to help students process information. Students have opportunities to use music to tell stories. They problem-solve, discuss, concentrate, use logic, and learn when to be serious. The prop construction area gives students hands-on experience in all aspects of stage production. Learning in the Practice Rooms is on display, with views from the Lobby and Mezzanine Student Commons.

The new performance space provides students a top-rate education with access to state-of-the-art technology. They utilize an in-house mix position desk for lighting and sound control. Students have access to Technology Decks, catwalks and follow spot. The Stage is outfitted with 10 scenery hoists (expandable to 20), 4 motorized electrics for over stage lighting, and a hanging acoustical shell with portable acoustical shell walls.

All this learning comes together and is demonstrated in an annual event. Students sort themselves into groups and divide up the work to create their own original production. Each group of students demonstrates their expertise by completing their own work. They do everything, from generating scripts and music to directing performers and developing the set.

The Auditorium features angled acoustical boxes with reclaimed wood and inset linear LED lighting, in-house sound and lighting control, and an orchestra pit with removable cover.
The Lobby of the Auditorium addition features a space to celebrate students’ accomplishments. To honor the school’s nautical history, the ceiling of the entry is designed with wave-shaped acoustical baffles. Furthermore, the inset compass marks the central point of the building to help lead and gather the students, staff and patrons.
The proportions and scale of the addition’s windows and the use of brick and cast stone architectural elements, such as the arches over the entry windows and masonry pilasters, reflect the proportions, scale, and detail of the original high school.
The history wall was designed on floor-to-ceiling high-impact material and honors the school’s past events, staff and students. It is centered between two main entries into the Auditorium and breaks up the long corridor.
The optimal location for an addition was to the South of the existing building. This presented a challenge because it would disrupt the main bus queuing area and access to the auto shop classroom. The design team’s solution was to connect the new addition through a bridge at the second-floor level. Vehicle circulation around the site remained unchanged and buses pass underneath. It provides a secure, indoor route for students to the rest of the building.
To continue in the school’s nautical theme, the Lobby features an inset compass design in the carpeting and reclaimed wood walls recalling the hull of a ship. Technology brings the Lobby to life with a live-feed of auditorium performances and etched acrylic panels with integrated LED backlighting. The Lobby puts learning on display with views into the sound-isolated Practice Rooms.

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