The Haas Fine Arts Center (HFA), at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire Campus was the first university building to be located on the north side of the Chippewa River. Originally built to house the Music, Theatre Arts, Art, and Communication departments for the University, the HFA has not undergone any major renovations or remodels over it’s 45 year life-span since construction in 1970. In the fall of 2014 SDS Architects, working with design partner HGA, was commissioned to complete a pre-design study and facility assessment to review the current condition of the facility, analyze the programs’ space needs, and make recommendations for the future of the HFA.
After a thorough assessment and documentation process reviewing the building’s physical condition, the design team met with members of the administration and faculty, the Blugold Foundation, DFD, UW-System, and department representatives to determine current needs and to forecast future requirements. It quickly became apparent that over the past four decades, the Music and Theatre Arts program and the department of Art & Design have outgrown the HFA and many of the spaces they currently occupy no longer meet their programmatic needs. Examples range from inadequate wing and support spaces for the major performances venues, an inadequate scenery shop and prop storage space, outdated, obsolete sound systems, lighting and equipment to undersized art studios and lack of storage and critique spaces for students and teachers. The building’s exterior envelope lacks any thermal insulation and its original 1970’s doors and windows are past their useful life, causing humidity and temperature control issues resulting in ongoing damage to sensitive music equipment. In addition, the mechanical, data and AV systems are outdated and obsolete.
As part of the facility assessment and pre-design study, several recommendations were presented for consideration: a “partial” HFA remodel and expansion plan that addresses the possibility of moving a portion of the theater and performing arts program to the Confluence Performing Arts Center, and a “complete” HFA program that maintains all recommended improvements within the current HFA site.
Both options would include improvements for additional rehearsal space, a black box theater, a new art gallery, a proscenium theater, a new scene shop, upgrades and improvement to the mechanical systems as well as a major renovation and/or addition for the fine arts program.