By Yusra Arub
Roble Arts Gym was selected in August by the California Preservation Foundation to be one of 18 recipients of the group’s prestigious Preservation Design Awards.
An award ceremony was held in Los Angeles on October 19.
Located on Santa Teresa Street, Roble Arts Gym has a long history on Stanford’s campus. Initially a women’s gymnasium, it was renovated in 2016 to become a multipurpose arts center for the Theater and Performance Studies (TAPS) department.
The gym now includes dance studios, classrooms, the black box Studio Theater and TAPS faculty and administrative offices.
Along with 10 of this year’s other Preservation Design Award recipients, Roble Arts Gym won in the “Rehabilitation” category. Also recognized in that category were the Rose Bowl in Pasadena and the Uber Advanced Technologies Group R&D Center in San Francisco.
According to Cindy Heitzman, Executive Director of the California Preservation Foundation, recipients of the Preservation Design Award for Rehabilitation are selected by professional architects and architecture critics based on both technical and aesthetic criteria.
“Roble Gym is an example of how you treat a building and reuse it,” Heitzman said. “They have to maintain the integrity of the building first, and we look at other aspects second.”
Roble Arts Gym was renovated by the architectural firm CAW Architects, Inc., led by Chris Wasney ’80, Architect of Record for the project. Although Wasney had previously worked on the Lorry I. Lokey Stanford Daily Building and the d.school, the idea of an “art gym” — where students could access various art supplies, use studios and gain inspiration for art — was new to him.
In designing Roble Arts Gym, Wasney’s architectural techniques make it possible to preserve certain original features of the space for future use, if so desired.
“It was ironic that the gym we turned into a black box theater was a beautifully day-lit space,” Wasney said. “It was heartbreaking to cover up the gorgeous windows. But if they ever want to convert it back to that naturally lit space, [that] can easily be restored. So we just blocked [the windows] off from the inside. That is called reversibility.”
Wasney added that the Roble Arts Gym is meant to honor the diversity of Stanford’s campus.
“If you’re a Stanford student and you’re not on the football or lacrosse team but you want to work out, you go and work out,” Wasney said. “The conceit for the art gym is that if you’re not an art major but you want an artistic outlet, you can come here. There is a video recording studio and places to draw and dance and make stuff in what was formerly a locker room. We adapted [the gym] to a new use.”
One student group that uses the gym is the Stanford Improvisors, or SImps. Deedee Anderson ’19, who manages space rental for the SImps, emphasized the ability to schedule recurring room reservations as a major benefit of the space.
“This saves groups so much time on the administrative side, which is primarily what I work in when I’m not performing,” Anderson said. “I wish more locations on campus were accommodating in this way because I consistently struggle to find reliable places to hold rehearsals that aren’t the arts gym. They’ve also had cool art related events that I always enjoy as well as craft supplies for student use.”
As Stanford celebrates it’s reception of the Preservation Design Award, Wasney recalled his experience contributing to the gym’s restoration.
“The most rewarding part is having someone who teaches there come up and say that they use the arts gym,” he said. “Projects are a metaphorical child — they take on a life of their own. People invent ways to inhabit your designs in ways that are genius and creative, and especially Stanford students are good at that.”
This article previously said the firm that renovated the gym was Bakewell and Brown, when in fact it was Chris Wasney’s firm CAW Architects, Inc. Bakewell and Brown designed the gym when it was initially constructed. The Daily regrets this error.
Contact Yusra Arub at yusraarub19 ‘at’ mittymonarch.com.