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Campus plaza at Oberlin College seen from top of the stairs looking down to walkway under 4th floor skywalk

Expanding Arts Facilities for the Future

Project Location

Oberlin, OH


Master plan, new construction, renovation / adaptive reuse


Master planning, programming/planning, architecture, MEP and structural engineering, interiors, LEED/Sustainable design, BIM, IT / security design, audiovisual, theater technical services


AIA Ohio, Honor Award, 2014

We began working on the Oberlin Campus in 2006 on a series of master plans, feasibility studies, and building projects – all arts-related and all designed to establish a whole greater than the sum of its parts. Collaborations within the College’s music, theater, and cinema studies departments and also between town and gown were sought and ultimately drove each of the projects.

We developed solutions that aggregated investment and prioritized projects that would not require an undoing of that investment in the future. Each project was designed to assert its place within the larger and more comprehensive context of the campus. Our arts-related projects at Oberlin include:

– Conservatory of Music Master Plan
– Green Arts District Master Plan
– Bertram and Judith Kohl Jazz Building
– Apollo Theatre Renovation, Cinema Studies Program
– Bibbins Hall Renovation
– Birenbaum Innovation + Performance Space
– Eric Baker Nord Performing Arts Annex

Beginning with an overall Master Plan for the Conservatory of Music, the Kohl Building brought jazz from a re-used gymnasium in the far northeast quadrant of the campus into direct contact with the main conservatory buildings. The Green Arts District Master plan provided the site and feasibility for a new hotel as well as a new adaptable theater within the Nord Performing Arts Annex and a flexible teaching / performance space with a jazz club atmosphere within the lower level of a new Gateway Center building. The Apollo Theatre project adapted an existing historic movie house for the College’s Cinema Studies program and maintained operations for a private community asset showing new release films in two venues. Bibbins Hall, the main teaching facility for the Conservatory, was renovated in five phases, including the creation of a new recital facility in ‘found space’ on the third floor of the 1964 music teaching building. We provided master planning; architecture; interiors; electrical, mechanical, and structural engineering; information transport; life safety & security; lighting; sustainability; and theater technical design services.

Beginning in 2006, our team collaborated with Oberlin College + Conservatory on a series of arts-related projects that were implemented as funding became available.


Campus plaza at Oberlin College seen from top of the stairs looking down to walkway under 4th floor skywalk
A pedestrian bridge features a student lounge to encourage social engagement.

Bertram & Judith Kohl Jazz Building

This award-winning building interfaces with the adjacent Minoru Yamasaki-designed Conservatory complex and creates an elevated pedestrian link that ties in three buildings. Home to Oberlin’s acclaimed Jazz Department, it features a world-class recording studio; flexible rehearsal spaces; teaching studios and practice rooms; a glass-enclosed social hub/lounge; and a library/archive. The project achieved LEED NC Gold certification and features geothermal heating and cooling with radiant panels among other sustainable features.


Corner room with white walls and thin rectangular windows with pointed tops and bottoms. A piano, center, on light wood floor
Stull Recital Hall features natural light and acoustic wood.

Bibbins Hall

The conservatory’s main teaching facility was renovated in five phases to improve the 1964 building’s acoustic performance, aesthetics, and energy efficiency. Vertical expansion allowed for a new double-height recital hall created in "found space" on the top level. The project was recognized with Honor Awards from AIA Cleveland and AIA Ohio.


Black box theater audience in flexible first floor seating below balcony facing stage with arch light
Three hundred fixed and loose seating provide flexibility within the theater

Nord Performing Arts Annex

Nested alongside the 1956 Hall Auditorium, the Nord Performing Arts Annex provides a new home for Oberlin College’s theater, dance, and opera departments. The Annex includes a new multi-form theater; a new lobby and event space serving both venues; rehearsal space, dressing rooms, and scene and costume shops shared by both stagehouses; and classrooms, labs, and studios for acting and the arts.


Audience sits in movie theater with geometric red carpeting and geometric tiled wall pattern
The theater is shared between the college and community.

Apollo Theatre / Cinema Studies Department

This project renovated a historic single-screen movie house for shared use by the College’s Cinema Studies Department and as a first-run movie house for the community. A new media suite contains a post-production lab, multi-purpose studio, video editing room, flatwork animation room, two recording isolation booths, a sound booth, and new projection rooms for the existing main auditorium and a new smaller, 60-seat film screening room.


Audience and camera sit facing 3 individuals seated at front of concrete room with dark grey ceiling and exposed structuring
Informal lectures and panel discussions are easily accommodated.

Birenbaum Innovation and Performance Space

Unlike more traditional venues, this new performance space offers an authentic “jazz club” atmosphere that encourages an interactive dynamic between performer and audience and allows for more experimental musical expressions. Offering versatility and functionality, Birenbaum easily transforms from classroom to club with a reconfigurable stage, adaptive amplification and audiovisual elements, and varied seating options. Technology is integrated throughout to provide recording, flexible lighting, and sound reinforcement.


2011 Honor Award for Excellence


2010 Honor Award

AIA Ohio

2014 Honor Award

AIA Ohio

In the Media

Oberlin College Bibbins Hall

In the Details

Oberlin College Bibbins Hall

July 10, 2023

"It might be tough to imagine, but there once was a time when musical instruments were an unwelcome sound in Oberlin College’s conservatory of music." (Say what!?) Accidentally Wes Anderson tells the story of that ill-fated music ban.

Read More

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