The Mattin Center at Johns Hopkins University is a place to nurture the creative arts in a school where the primary focus has always been science and engineering. Students come here in their free time to take non-accredited classes in dance, theater and the visual arts. In many ways, it functions as an impromptu student union.
The center is composed of three buildings housing visual art and computer rooms, a dance studio, student offices, a black box theater, individual and group music practice rooms, and a café. Art studios open directly onto terraces. Large windows permit views into ground level dance studios. A brilliant green ceiling reflects light from a hidden skylight to a café below. Clerestory windows bring natural light to the student offices. The three structures are containers of life and light, and the triangulated plan sites the buildings close to each other, so people see other people working, creating a visual community.
The buildings are cut into the existing slope of the site and act as retaining walls to create a sunken, sheltered courtyard. This is the heart of the project and serves as a place of passage, gathering, study, and meeting. The roofs of the buildings that form the courtyard are accessible terraces. A series of ramps and stairways connect the plaza and terrace levels as well as the Center to the Hopkins campus beyond. By cutting the buildings into the ground, the strong presence of the wooded knoll and the character of the existing Neo-Georgian architecture are retained. The siting preserves many existing trees and new plant materials in the lower level courtyard and on the upper level terraces enhance the connection to the surrounding landscape.