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Updated: Jan 29, 2020

In the 1890s, the building was a tobacco processing plant.

In the early 2000s, it held the University Loft student apartments.

Since 2015, after award-winning renovations, the building has been a home to budding creatives as the School of Art and Visual Studies.

Before moving into the current building— known to most simply as the SA/VS building— the School of Arts and Visual Studies was housed in the Reynolds building on Scott Street.

Robert Jensen, UK faculty member since 1994 and director of SA/VS since 2012, oversaw the move from Reynolds to the current building on Bolivar Street.

Jensen said the move was met by some graduates with sentimentality, but the faculty was very enthusiastic.

The Reynolds building had its share of problems, from staircases collapsing to lack of temperature control to security issues that allowed people to wander into the building.

But despite the imperfections, many students still cherished it for its character. Its large size offered freedom, and many drew inspiration from the aging building.

Following the move, Jensen said he wanted to ensure that the new building stayed in good condition over the next several decades. Looking to choose an architectural partner that prioritized longevity and a collaborative workspace, Jensen and his team decided to partner with Omni Architecture.

Omni Architecture is a Lexington-based firm that specializes in frictionless workspaces, which fit the goals of SA/VS faculty. Incorporating the good elements of Reynolds while fixing the things it lacked was a priority.

The SA/VS building was inspired by the MIT Media Lab in the Wiesner Building at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where glass and metal framework were utilized to create an open space for collaboration and design.

This feature was applied to the design of SA/VS to increase collaboration between students and faculty. In 2015, SA/VS received the Honor Award for Design Excellence from the Kentucky Chapter of the American Institute of Architects.

The efforts to increase collaboration between students has been successful to some extent, said Jacob Reynolds, a digital media and design senior with an interest in photography.

“Because [SA/VS] is so winged off, I only ever really see the photography people,” Reynolds said. “Most people burrow into whatever they want to do.”

Reynolds said he spends a large chunk of his time working in the Photo Lab as a student and lab manager.

“I have made some great connections with faculty,” Reynolds said. “I think it’s interesting how you can have more of a friendship with them, as opposed to just a student-instructor relationship.”

The networking and relationships that can occur within the SA/VS building can also extend beyond the College of Fine Arts. Recently, SA/VS began a collaboration with Dr. Michael Winkler, associate professor of radiology and medicine, to begin printing custom 3D hearts for physicians and their patients.

According to a UK press release about this project, these 3D prints allow physicians to create physical stimulations of their patients’ organs, giving the physicians time to identify problems and plan before the surgery.

“I think that you can network as far as you want here,” Reynolds said.

Photo by Justin Acala.


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