Welcome to The Art of Building, a series that showcases the techniques, solutions, and innovations that contribute to Shawmut’s better building experience across the most complex projects.

In partnership with internationally acclaimed architecture firm REX, Shawmut is completing Brown University’s state-of-the-art Performing Arts Center. Breaking ground in 2019 and slated to be completed in 2023, the complex is set to anchor a future campus arts district and offer an unparalleled approach to experimental, collaborative, and engaged performance work.

Utilizing Integrated Project Delivery (IPD)—an effective and highly collaborative approach to the preconstruction, design, and building process—and tapping into decades of experience building complex higher education projects, the Shawmut team is delivering a 94,000 square foot building that will become a technologically sophisticated, highly flexible structure.

At the core of this one of-of-a-kind project is the building’s dense structural steel package. In total, the Shawmut team is installing more than 4,200,000 lbs. of steel and utilizing 15,000 lbs. of welding wire to create the bones of the superstructure. To enable the future main performance hall’s ultra-adaptable flexibility, the team also installed moving gantries—a system of large, heavyweight steel frames hung from roof trusses and running along a rail system—during the erection of the steel and framing. The gantries will fly over the main performance hall to align and configure the space into any of five vastly diverse stage and audience configurations. Featuring dynamic components such as seating gantries, acoustic curtains, reflector panels, and lighting bridges—all that can be shifted, hidden, and stretched—the installation of the system required extensive preplanning, with the Shawmut team leveraging Lean Construction techniques to optimize efficiencies throughout. 

When completed, the Performing Arts Center will push the boundaries of innovative performance spaces across the globe and has become one of the most highly anticipated projects in higher education.