Beloit College Magazine

Fall/Winter 2013 (November 1, 2013 at 6:00 am)

Powerhouse Project Moves Closer to Reality


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November 1, 2013 at 8:32 am

Powerhouse

Photo by Trevor Johnson'08

Beloit’s board of trustees made two key decisions at its October board meeting that are building momentum around plans to convert a nearby, decommissioned power plant into a campus activity and recreation center.

Trustees approved a three-year agreement between the college and current owner Alliant Energy aimed at transitioning ownership of the century-old building while allowing the college time to raise full funding for the project. At the same meeting, trustees approved hiring Studio Gang Architects—one of architecture’s most innovative and closely watched firms—to lead the project’s design.

Studio Gang has made an international name for itself through projects that resonate with their specific sites and culture while addressing global themes, such as reuse and sustainability.

The firm is led by Jeanne Gang, a MacArthur Fellow and a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects. In the past year, she and her firm have been the subject of a solo exhibition at the Art Institute of Chicago and feted in the Wall Street Journal Magazine. In September, Gang and Managing Principal Mark Schendel accepted the 2013 National Design Award in Architecture from the Smithsonian’s Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum at a White House reception hosted by First Lady Michelle Obama.

A committee composed of trustees, staff, faculty, and students selected Chicago-based Studio Gang from a field of five firms “for their creativity, talent, vision, and care, but most of all—their enthusiasm for approaching this project as both collaborator and partner, learner and leader,” says committee co-chair and Dean of Students Christina Klawitter’98.

 “This project should be a model—for connecting college to community, campus to river, and our city’s past to its future while honoring the role Alliant Energy and its employees played in powering our state’s growth over a century,” College President Scott Bierman says. “This is a vision Studio Gang is already helping shape and make possible. We are thrilled to see what they can teach us, discover, and do for the college and our region.”

Alliant Energy and college leaders have been working together for more than a year to explore a possible sale of the Blackhawk Generating Station, a 120,000-square-foot electric power plant perched on the east bank of the Rock River, only about 100 yards away from the college’s science center.

Specific plans for the building are expected to evolve, but preliminary discussions held over the past year focused on its role as a campus center, which could include an indoor track, a large, flexible open space, and a lecture/movie hall, among other spaces that take advantage of the building’s prime location along the river.   

If all goes well at the end of the three-year agreement window, Alliant Energy would formalize a transition of the property in 2016.

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