Architecture, Brooklyn, Dance studio, Design, Dwana Smallwood, Education design, Jordan Parnass Digital Architecture, New York, Oprah Winfrey, Public spaces

Oprah-sponsored performing arts center in New York wins multiple design awards

Jordan Parnass Digital Architecture (JPDA) has completed the new Dwana Smallwood Performing Arts Center (DSPAC) – a community resource that celebrates dance education in one of Brooklyn’s neighbourhoods.

With financial support from an American TV host Oprah Winfrey, dancer Dwana Smallwood was able to realise her vision to give back to the community she grew up in.

The project has already won several interior design honours from AIA New York as well as the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce’s Building Brooklyn Award for outstanding contribution to Brooklyn’s streetscape and economy.

Located in a former industrial building, JPDA developed a series of dramatic architectural interventions that transform the exterior and creates bright, airy and playful dance studios, offices, a library and dressing rooms.

Formerly a principal dancer with Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Dwana Smallwood later served as director at the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy in South Africa. After deciding to return to her home neighborhood to teach dance, the project benefited from Oprah’s direct support to spur the growth of the organisation in developing a school and resource center for the community.

“My intention was to use my professional dancing experiences to come back to where I grew up and not only teach dance, but the confidence, love, creativity, and self-esteem that comes with learning dance,” recounts Dwana.

DSPAC combines flexible dance studios, performance spaces and administrative functions and serves as a significant cultural resource for the community.

Early in the design process, JPDA developed a series of figure studies using photography and dance notation to inspire a direct abstraction of movement and the flow of architectural space.

The entrance is announced by a suspended canopy, via glass doors flanked by 3D sculpted concrete panels and a marquee that establish the abstract vocabulary of undulating energy and movement.  Cast ripple and spiral panels hint at the energy and dynamic spirit of the public programs.

The stairwell and second floor reception are clad in dimensional CNC-milled lacquered panels that conceal storage, signage and lighting. The circular ripple motif carries through to a colourful and warm library that provides comfortable seating and a social gathering space.

The area creates an oasis of calm for reading and stretching, as well as social space for connecting with friends and neighbors. Open, bright studios with sprung floors and glowing skylights are the focus for dancers. The two studios are flexibly divided and can open up to one large dance stage with blackout curtains at performance time.