Newswise — Students in the School of Architecture and the department of dance at the University of Illinois worked together to design and build a much-needed graduate dance rehearsal space on the second level of the East Art Annex 2 in Urbana.

The students' work on the project is part of a seminar conducted by architecture professors Roger Hubeli and Julie Larsen this semester. For the seminar, students are required to design and build a dance studio using mainly recycled materials.

The floor of a basketball court from the Intramural-Physical Education Building was harvested during the renovation of that structure into the Activities Recreation Center. Parts of it are being used for the dance studio floor, and other possible materials for re-use are being researched.

"It's all about recycling material and thinking about sustainability on campus and how we can use these old buildings in a contemporary way," Larsen said.

At the start of the semester, students in the seminar worked in groups to propose different designs for the space. The winning design also uses wood from the basketball court for the walls of the space. In addition to creating the design, the students do hands-on work in the wood shop and construct the space.

Jan Erkert, professor and head of the dance department, said the department has had a need for more space for many years.

"We have beautiful spaces within our department, but they mostly serve for our courses," Erkert said. "What we lack is rehearsal space."

The space will be called the Graduate Dance Center and will serve as a place for graduate dance students to work on their research and the creative process. The dance department also hopes the space will help attract exceptional students to Dance at Illinois.

The spring seminar is just Phase 1 of what the collaborators hope will be at least two phases of the project. The long-term goal of the project is to renovate the entire building and bring it up to certification by the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System. Because of this goal, it was important for the rehearsal space to be constructed as a "floating space," or one that can be dismantled and reinstalled.

"The idea that it's floating is that once we get the money for a new roof and new windows, we would take the studio out of (the building) and put it back in without wasting energy or tearing it down," Erkert said.

To accomplish this, Erkert and the other project leaders are searching for funding to enable the continuation of the project. They recently applied for a grant from the Student Sustainability Committee that would fund the completion of Phase 2 of the project.

Phase 2 would be completed during another student seminar in the fall semester and would include the design and implementation of a second rehearsal space and energy-efficient updates to the second floor of the building. The second rehearsal space also would use recycled materials, including wood from two alumni-owned barns in Des Moines, Iowa.

"They're super excited to let us use the barns," Larsen said. "We could use the wood if we get the funds to do it."

In addition to providing the dance department with rehearsal space and architecture students with hands-on experience, the team hopes the project will serve as an example of sustainable building practices. It meets the university goals as set forth by the Strategic Plan and also renovates one of the underutilized buildings on campus.

"This was a good opportunity to really showcase a project where the campus could see that there is a real desire to use older building on campus," Larsen said. "We could use this as a catalyst to potentially expand and try to do some more adaptive reuse of more buildings."

Video on the project is available at: