As the center of Charlotte has expanded to meet its edges, the community college just outside the center city ring has experienced its own evolution. Central Piedmont Community College has become a pillar in the regional system of general education, with its foundations extending beyond job training. The campus context—a collection of concrete parking garages COST PER SQ FT$181.12FEATURED IN2006 Architectural Portfolio two-story boxes—was in search of a fabric to fit its new mission. This building greets the arriving city with a new, emphatically collegiate facade.
The entry portico welcomes patrons to a 1,000-seat community theater and is massed as a “proscenium box” from which a classical pediment emerges. The six ionic columns supporting the pediment’s entablature are solid limestone—the first monumental order to be pressed into service for the design of a Charlotte civic building in 70 years. This building has urban responsibilities: its long elevations create street walls and screen a parking garage. The program is a diverse collection: classrooms, art studios, faculty offices, a recital hall, performance support spaces and a student commons are fit together to wrap a sound- and light-locked theater.
The choice was made not to abstract the classical style requested by the college, but rather to embrace the language with gusto. The interior is imagined as an echo of Greek open-air theaters. Over the audience, reflectors painted a deep blue and stenciled in silvery, classical motifs recall the starry night skies under which the players of Antiquity performed.