Edwards Center for Art and Dance

Bowdoin College - Brunswick, ME

Edwards Center Bowdoin College

Adaptive reuse of a beloved 1920’s elementary school building into a collaborative nexus for the arts.

Arts Center at Bowdoin College
Arts Center at Bowdoin College
Arts Center at Bowdoin College

The Project

The former Longfellow Elementary School on the edge of Bowdoin’s campus educated generations of local schoolchildren and the College wanted the building’s new function as a collaborative teaching and exhibition space for the visual arts and dance to respect that history and provenance. The new arts center brings students and faculty previously spread across campus and town into a single, energized hub.

Historic adaptive reuse architecture

The Approach

A programming and planning exercise to explore the building’s adaptive reuse revealed a variety of opportunities to embrace its past while transforming it into a sophisticated and fully accessible center. The original building had good bones with abundant daylight, brick and hardwood details and a “doughnut” layout with classrooms ringing a central gymnasium. By traversing the double height gymnasium with another floor and exposing the timber roof truss, we were able to create a dramatic and light-filled dance studio and add necessary square footage. A digital media lab, darkroom and classrooms make up the core on the lower level. The original classroom spaces have been repurposed into bright art studios and the building’s wide corridors are ideal gallery space.

The Result

This one-of-a-kind arts center features painting, drawing, printmaking and sculpture studios, two dance studios, a photography lab and darkroom, classrooms, faculty offices, student exhibition space as well as a state-of-the-art digital media lab, all in a single campus location. The co-location of the arts programs has created a wonderful synergy and supports the departments’ goals to explore and embrace different modes of understanding and expression.

Total Area


wide gallery corridors


original building


2014 Outstanding Interior Renovation

American School & University

It’s a wonderful moment for the visual arts program and the dance program for us now to have our own home to allow students and faculty to create and collaborate all under one roof

Michael Kolster, Professor of Art

Team Leaders

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