The Howard Center for the Arts is a state-of-the-art facility for the visual and performing arts at Roman Catholic High School (RCHS). The Howard Center for the Arts is Phase I of a four-phased, $25 million, transformational initiative which will provide an innovative, 21st Century education for Roman’s students. The first phase included the renovation of a nondescript 1940’s warehouse building to transform it into a light-filled and modern facility for fine and performing arts as well as digital photography and videography.
The Center contains gathering spaces, mixed media classrooms, a piano lab, a digital arts studio, a band room, practice rooms, and offices for instructors on the second floor. Parking is accommodated on the first floor. A major component of the design of the new space is the creation of a Black Box Theater. All performing arts, music, choral, and drama programs now practice, perform, and exhibit their artistic works in this intimate setting. The space is also available to local Philadelphia arts groups.
The existing 2-story warehouse building presented multiple challenges including low ceiling heights and roof structure, limited access to natural light, inefficient HVAC systems and the need to accommodate large scale functions within its existing footprint. The Design Team decided to flip the initial program from the first to the second floor to help solve the design challenges. With the program on the second floor, the ceiling structure was left exposed to provide greater volumes. The roof of the structure was lifted in several areas to accommodate the black box theater and band room. Windows were enlarged and skylights added to flood the building with natural light into the rooms and corridors.