Macalester College, Janet Wallace Fine Arts Center - Visual Arts

Light-Filled Studio Arts Building Embraces Its Discipline

The Janet Wallace Fine Arts Center anchors the western edge of the Macalester College campus in St. Paul, Minnesota. Built in the 1960s, the structure was in critical need of an update when college officials sought to redesign the complex, breaking down the silos between studio art, theater, and music while upgrading and customizing the spaces needed for each discipline. Because of the tight urban location of the campus, new campus construction must maximize multi-use possibilities to make every space count.

HGA responded with a design for a state-of-the-art visual and performing arts complex anchored by a light-filled, two-story arts commons. The exterior of the newly renovated center establishes an identity for the arts on campus: the facade of the music building features a staccato texture of angled panels that reference the rhythm of musical instruments, while the east side of the studio art building features terra cotta louvers that pay homage to clay objects and glazing processes.

Exterior and interior lighting highlight the architectural detailing and activity within.  Throughout the renovated project, large windows connect the activity of the programs within to the bustling campus outside, inviting all to partake in the process of making art.

Phase I: Music

Phase II: Visual Arts

Studio spaces for activities that create exhaust were carefully zoned in the building to minimize duct work runs and avoid reentry of chemicals and particles into the building’s fresh air intake system. All new mechanical systems and controls focused on maintaining safety while operating sustainably.

Phase III: Theater and Dance


St. Paul, MN

Building Type

Learning Spaces, Visual Arts


  • 2020 SCUP/AIA-CAE Excellence in Architecture for Rehabilitation, Restoration or Preservation Honorable Mention Award
  • 2014 AIA Minnesota Honor Award

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