Architect: Ballou and Justice
Address: 325 N. Harrison Street
On Harrison Street at the eastern terminus of West Avenue lies the Virginia Commonwealth University’s Pollak Building. The building is occupied by various parts of the VCU School of the Arts including the office of the dean, and the graphic design, fashion, film, and photography programs.
The Pollak Building is, in plan, reminiscent of Louis Kahn’s monumental form of modernism. The large stair towers anchor the building’s four corners while rectangular classroom blocks span the space in between. This creates a large interior courtyard planted with magnolia trees. This space is linked by foot paths to the Anderson Gallery, the Scott House, and the center of campus.
The courtyard is accessible to the public by way of a raised brutalistic arcade that extends to front Harrison Street. The street itself is presented with two main elements. First, spare concrete piers and stairs with a textured pattern left from the form molds used to create it and, second, a low brick wall. The space, though generous and attractive, is underutilized. This is somewhat troubling considering the high premium on space along the retail-heavy Harrison Street.
The principle facade begins at a story above street level and continues up a further 3 stories. Each of the four bars of classrooms and offices that make up the building are sided with blank concrete and fronted with concrete bands containing brick bays, each with two windows. The vertical windows and grid system employed by the facade reference the surrounding Victorian apartment and office buildings.
Recently, the building was outfitted with a green roof. VDMO Architects designed the roof to meet environmental goals such as reduced heat absorption and storm water runoff but the space is also recreational. A small terrace with views of the surrounding Monroe Park skyline and Fan District roof scape is a welcome addition to the Pollak Building.