Old Town School of Folk Music Enters the Scene on a High Note: B&A Completes New Facility

Chicago, Ill. (February 6, 2012) – Old Town School of Folk Music, in Chicago’s Lincoln Square neighborhood, opened the doors to the School’s new arts education facility in January 2012.  The 27,100 square-foot expansion, designed by VOA Associates, is located across the street from the organization’s primary home on Lincoln Avenue.

The expansion was necessary, as Old Town School of Folk Music has continued to experience tremendous growth since opening its Lincoln Square facility, a former Chicago Public Library, in 1998.  The School not only wanted to provide the community with an abundance of new classes and concerts, but had the goal in mind of building a facility that functions well for Chicago’s next generation of musicians, dancers and artists.  Bulley & Andrews, LLC, the project’s general contractor, completed the facility on a fast-paced, 14-month construction schedule.

“We have enjoyed a remarkable collaborative relationship with Bulley & Andrews that only grew stronger as the construction project progressed,” said Bau Graves, executive director of Old Town School of Folk Music.  “Watching the completion of the building was nothing short of astonishing, as the crews completed many weeks worth of work in the last few days.”

The new performing arts education facility, located at 4543 North Lincoln, offers space to meet the growing needs of the School’s students, faculty and staff.

The architectural detailing of the new building offers enticing aesthetic touches. The masonry, cast stone and steel exterior on Lincoln Avenue relates to the well-crafted architecture of the School’s Art Deco-era main building across the street.  Three architectural precast concrete panels, located at street level, feature the word “music” in many languages and graphic expressions.

“The building design, in total, is a reflection of the values and culture of the inclusive, creative, and inspiring institution that it serves,” said Stephen Siegle, senior vice president of VOA Associates, Inc.

Its multi-story entrance hall, called the building’s “front porch”, features large windows that entice visitors to enter.  The centerpiece of this space is a crisply-detailed monumental steel and terrazzo staircase, with glass guardrail panels featuring portraits of folk music legends drawn by artist R. Crumb.  The stair landings can be used as a stage for impromptu performances as well as circulation.

The building itself features 16 acoustically-engineered classrooms and three professional dance studios.  The facility also boasts a 2,100 square foot venue with 150 seats that acts as a classroom, community gathering space, dance hall and performance venue.  This multi-purpose space is equipped with telescoping bleachers and built-in sound control equipment to support live music and dance as well as informal gatherings.

The acoustical nature of the design and construction of the building proves to be a unique and beneficial element for students and staff.  Like the multi-purpose venue, the three dance studios on the top floor are built with sprung floors. This construction technique, together with the building’s robust steel frame, prevents sound and vibration transmission between floors.
The construction team utilized Building Information Modeling (BIM) for MEP coordination.  This modeling technique allowed the construction team to identify areas of possible conflict and work collaboratively during the preconstruction phase to eliminate conflicts before the team began construction on the jobsite.

“This level of accuracy generated by using BIM greatly increased the effectiveness of preplanning, shortened the schedule duration for installation and allowed for us to be efficient in installing the mechanical equipment in a tight space,”  said Frank Floss, project manager for Bulley & Andrews, LLC.

The building also demonstrates the Old Town School’s commitment to sustainability.  A computer-based management program for the building’s climate control system will optimize occupant comfort and minimize energy use.  Many building products feature recycled content, including the entrance hall’s terrazzo floor, which sparkles from light reflected from bits of broken glass bottles in the mix.  Additionally, a remarkable 95 percent of construction waste was recycled.  Low-flow plumbing fixtures, bicycle storage space and employee showers to encourage employees to leave their cars at home, and a green roof also contribute to the building’s anticipated LEED Gold Certification.

The facility is expected to expand student capacity by 60 percent. With the new addition, Old Town School of Folk Music hopes to double the number of concerts and add at least 100 teaching jobs to the payroll.

“In every respect – craftsmanship, community relations, creative problem solving – the Bulley & Andrews team has gone the extra mile again and again,” said Graves.  “As a result, the students and staff at Old Town School of Folk Music are now able to enjoy the advantages of a new, state-of-the-art facility along with the health and well-being benefits of a green building.”