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Collage Dance,
 Memphis, TN | 2021

Collage Dance,
 Memphis, TN | 2021

Architects: archimania
General Contractor: Grinder, Taber & Grinder, Inc.
Client: Collage Dance
Photographs: Courtesy of the Architects

PROGRAM. The new performing arts facility positions Collage Dance as a cultural anchor energized by its mission: to increase representation for dancers of color in ballet and to enrich—both culturally and socioeconomically—communities of color through access to the arts.

In an expanded state-of-the-art facility, they are now able to cultivate a love of dance in thousands of students of all ages through mission-driven, multi-generational programs.

BRIEF. Collage Dance grew from a class in a church basement with one student into an internationally-touring professional company and conservatory that had outgrown their 3,000 sq ft space in a nearby arts district.

Committed to remaining part of the historically African-American neighborhood, a 2-acre site was selected at the intersection of two key priorities — providing high visibility and identity while being a cultural anchor for the Binghampton community, an area founded in 1893 and impacted over the decades by development, racial discrimination and changes in housing.

The new facility would need to accommodate their growing company, conservatory, and supporting programming while evoking a sense of movement, creativity, and openness to the neighborhood.

The program is growth-minded, including: four rehearsal studios; a performance studio; expanded administration spaces; lounges for Company dancers, Conservatory dancers, and parents; retail space; dressing rooms; a costume shop; and generous lobby and pre-function spaces (including two courtyards and an outdoor plaza) all outsizing their previous space ten-fold.

Ninety-six percent of occupiable spaces have direct views to the exterior, while many of the public spaces have direct exterior access.

The exterior form was conceived as two tiers, recalling two dancers in a lift.

The glazed brick base presents permanence and low maintenance at street level, supporting a lightweight, corrugated galvalume parapet. The lively parapet dances in both plan and elevation, responding to programmatic and environmental needs and unifying the façade’s varied roof heights between studios and public space.

Inside, three key public spaces including a lobby, Conservatory lounge, and administrative reception anchor the building’s program and enfilade circulation strategy. Each of these spaces is appointed in warm white oak paneling and trim (a medium-toned hardwood with a refined grain) that is layered, with contrasting textures bringing out shadows and depth, adding a range of tones to the space.

Connecting spaces and dance studios are designed as foils to this: tall and bright, focusing on exterior views, and natural light, and emphasizing dancers’ movement through contrast.

Studio spaces are conceptually related but unique in expression, setting each studio’s purpose and mood with tailored shades of sky-inspired blues in the volume above the dance space, distinct expressions in lighting, and varied tones of brown Marley dance floors.

Additional design considerations unique to the project’s positioning as a cultural anchor to the surrounding community included: diverse stakeholder discussions throughout the design process with user groups, surrounding residents, and neighboring businesses; partnering with the city to address infrastructure and safety opportunities with the site; and environmental conditions to address the health and wellbeing of the building and site users, ecosystem restoration, lighting pollution, and water retention with the project as it is located above the Memphis Sand Aquifer and sited within the Wolf River drainage basin and Cypress Creek sub-basin.

Designing points of connection was fundamental, breaking down layers between dancers and the neighborhood to create an inspiring and safe space where the community could experience the joy of dance.

An outdoor performance plaza, large studio windows, and landscaped exterior seating outside of each performance space facilitate unique opportunities to experience the wonder of dance by day and night, inside or out, including special window performance nights to provide Covid safe programming.

Today, Collage Dance is one of the largest Black-led performing arts organizations in the South.

Collage Dance
Collage Dance
Collage Dance

American Architecture
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