The photograph above is terrible — it was taken in the dark from the side of a room with an iPhone. Studio Gang has released concept images for the expanded and updated Arkansas Arts Center, allowing me to dump my earlier photograph. It better reveals that Henry Moore’s “Large Standing Figure Knife Edge” will have a new home: in the renovated and expanded Arkansas Arts Center.
Jeanne Gang of Studio Gang architecture firm in Chicago and Kate Orff of SCAPE landscaping firm in New York presented design concepts for the new Arts Center to its board of directors and other city agencies today.
The construction budget for the new Arts Center was increased to $70 million, up from the original $46 million, when the Arts Center and its foundation realized the lower figure would not provide the pizzazz Little Rock expects to see in the facility, which will receive an estimated $35 million from a bond issue financed by the city tourism tax receipts.
Studio Gang’s design showed a new entry uncovering the historic, WPA-designed entrance to the Arts Center, now hidden in one of the galleries; a wide north-south hallway connecting the north and south entrances covered with a flowing, faceted roof and dividing the Arts Center in half (sort of like a dog trot, one of the directors joked); a glass-walled restaurant extending into a plaza on the south; a second story “Cultural Living Room” with a view of Little Rock; and landscaping that provides a natural entrance to the property on both the north and south sides. The design solves the Arts Center’s lack of affinity with MacArthur Park, in which it sits; its asphalt and barely landscaped surrounds, and does away with the unwelcoming Western entrance added in 2000.
“Large Standing Knife Edge” stood at the intersection of Fifth and Main streets in 1978 and was later moved a block away to the Union National Plaza at Fifth and Louisiana Street. Mayor Mark Stodola confirmed the sculpture’s move at the board meeting. There will be a public presentation of the plans tonight in the lecture hall starting at 6:30 p.m.