Now that the site is clear and level and foundations have been poured, the new Northlight building is growing like bamboo. Once completed, it will house brand new photography and papermaking studios and a large social hall for parties, scholarship auctions, movement classes, show and tell, and more.
There’s still a lot to do before the building’s estimated completion in summer 2018, but the bones of the spaces are in place. A tour through the site last week made it clear that this new complex is going to be a thing of beauty and a real treat for the whole Penland community. Have a look for yourself:
This is the inside view of the new social hall space, which has been designed with vastly improved acoustics, lighting, and temperature control in mind. We’ll see you here in 2018 for some epic dance parties!
The new paper studio will include a dry classroom, a wet workroom, a covered and screened porch area, and even a separate space to house the beaters so the rest of the studio doesn’t get so noisy.
The photo studio will have plenty of space for darkroom and digital work, as well as some of the best views on campus.
And for all of you with fond memories of the old Northlight porch, fear not! Porch space was the number one thing that people asked to keep in this new building, and the designers certainly listened. Here, facilities director Dave Sommer demonstrates how far the double-level covered porch will extend off the front of the social hall. Perfect for a rocking chair and a little knoll viewing, no?
We couldn’t be more excited about all the ways this new building will shape the Penland experience going forward, and we can’t wait to share it with you. Here’s a giant thanks to architect Louis Cherry, landscape architect Walter Havener, and Dave Sommer and his entire team for their vision and persistence in turning this idea into reality!
And finally, let’s finish with some more views because it’s just that lovely. Scroll to the end to see three renderings of the finished space.
Northlight has long served as a community hub here at Penland. For over twenty-five years, students have started their mornings there with early yoga classes, enriched their evenings with instructor slide talks, and celebrated the end of sessions with auctions and show and tell displays. It has also hosted dances, parties, symposiums, weddings, memorial services, benefit auction art displays, theatrical performances, core shows, lectures, and other events. The planning for the original building began around 1984, they broke ground in 1987, and construction was completed by 1991 thanks to a big push of community energy led by then-director Hunter Kariher and maintenance man Harold Jones. Shortly thereafter, the Fall 1991 issue of the Penland Line praised the project with these words:
The Northlight Building has added to the quality of the experience for Penland students because there is now a place in a central location where everyone can fit under the same roof at the same time. Northlight has enabled us to bring all of the studios to the center of campus.
Northlight earned a special place in many of our hearts, but it also caused a few headaches in its time. To name a few, it tended to flood in heavy rains; its heating, ventilation, and electrical systems could be lacking; the acoustics left something to be desired; it was the only building we’ve ever seen with a gutter on the inside (long story); and current building code requirements had long since left it behind. Nevertheless, it served us well for a long time.
Now, thanks to the gifts of many generous supporters and friends, we are building Northlight 2.0. The new Northlight complex will house state-of-the-art papermaking and photography studios and two levels of social space for slides, exhibitions, orientation meetings, auctions, movement classes, and more. The studios have been planned with close participation from Penland staff and instructors to allow increased flexibility and range in our workshop programming. The social area will enhance Northlight’s important role as a place to build community and bring people together at Penland, complete with a kitchen, gallery space, common room, landscaped outdoor areas, porches, and yes, those beloved rocking chairs looking out over the mountains. Floods will be a thing of the past and landscape features will help mitigate runoff problems in the lower part of campus. The new space will be accessible and adaptable. In short, we think it will be an amazing addition to the Penland campus, and we are eagerly anticipating its completion (planned for summer 2018).
Of course, as with all dear friends, we prefer to say “see you later” to the old Northlight than to wish the structure a permanent goodbye. We are excited that members of the Penland community have been carefully salvaging siding, rafters, windows, and other materials to give these pieces new life in other projects. Former resident artist and woodworker Tom Shields has been collecting hemlock boards from the exterior to use in the construction of his new studio in Asheville. Penland grant writer Nancy Lowe has saved some of the big windows from the face of the building to create a greenhouse in her garden. Wood studio coordinator Ellie Richards has recovered flooring and windows with the hope of incorporating them into a tiny house someday. And some of the siding and flooring will be used in the new building.
So in a summer or two, when you’re at Penland for a workshop or an artist talk or a July 4th community celebration, we hope your enjoyment of Northlight will be twofold—once in appreciating the beauty and functionality of the new structure, and once again in knowing that the old building lives on in the hearts, minds, and creative endeavors of our community.
See more photos of the Northlight deconstruction project in the slideshow below. (If you are reading this post as an email, we recommend viewing it on the blog.)
Last night we celebrated the end of fall concentrations in the traditional way—by coming together with friends and community members for an end-of-session scholarship auction. Last night’s was a rousing one, thanks to the incredible work donated by Penland’s students, instructors, residents, staff, and more and the generous bidding of the audience members. At the end of it all, we had raised an astonishing $24,000+ towards Penland’s scholarship funds!
To make the evening even more special was the fact that last night’s auction was the final one to take place in this space. Starting in December, demolitions will begin on the Northlight building, including Gorelick Social Hall and the photo and paper studios. In their place we will build a new Northlight complex that will include social gathering spaces and upgraded studios.
Thank you to everyone who donated, bid, volunteered, and attended to make this final auction a fitting sendoff for our well-loved Northlight. We look forward to welcoming you all into the new building soon for many more years of good art, good friends, and good fun.