As of fall 2015, Illustration majors began working in a beautifully upgraded building designed to meet the rapidly changing needs of their program.
As part of RISD by Design, the annual alumni and parents’ weekend, the RISD community will celebrate the completion of the Illustration Studies Building (ISB) renovation with an open house and dedication ceremony.
With the field of illustration morphing faster than ever, RISD’s forward-focused Illustration program has been evolving equally fast. Prior to the ISB renovation, however, our vision for curricular innovation had been compromised by our facilities, which hadn’t been upgraded in almost half a century.
For almost 35 years Illustration had been housed in a 19th-century chemical and dye plant last renovated in 1967. It’s a remarkable historic building that RISD resolved to restore while creating a facility that truly meets the demands of 21st-century pedagogy.
The goals were clear. Illustration majors needed more space to collaborate, exchange ideas and move nimbly from drawing and painting to creating advanced digital media.
Working with an architecture alumnus and Illustration faculty, RISD developed an elegant, cost-effective design solution that allowed for a total upgrade of the building without displacing students and faculty during the academic year.
At the heart of the project is a 5,600-sf glass addition that envelops a code-compliant stairway, elevator and restrooms. This now makes the ISB fully accessible for the first time in its history, opening the door to those with disabilities. It also allowed each floor to be reconfigured to correct the complex warren of spaces that had been preventing programmatic progress.
It’s the type of synergy that prepares our graduates to find meaningful work in fields as diverse as journalism, publishing, game and interactive design, advertising, textiles and surface design, robotics and many more. With close to 300 talented students, Illustration is now the largest undergraduate major at RISD.
It’s a dynamic department with exciting plans—and now that our facilities are up to the task, we’re thrilled to be moving forward. Illustration majors are now hard at work in an open, accessible and inviting home that suits current and anticipated requirements for our rapidly evolving curriculum.
Site design by RISD Media, development by Greg Nemes
Homepage illustration: Chris Buzzellii BFA 95 / faculty member, The World Turned Upside Down
Watercolor renderings: Joe McKendry 94 IL / faculty member