The New Steel Plant Takes Shape

Elisabeth Tavarez


June 15, 2018 — Excitement is building as one of the world’s premier architectural firms is transforming Marist’s Steel Plant Studios into a spectacular learning center for the Fashion Program and the Department of Art & Digital Media.  High ceilings and high technology will be hallmarks of this project designed by Robert A. M. Stern Architects, incorporating brick, steel, polished concrete, terrazzo, corrugated metal, tile, and wood to achieve a “Hudson River Valley” industrial–modern style. 

Construction on the Steel Plant project began last summer, and when completed, it will provide Marist’s Fashion and Art & Digital Media programs with an outstanding working environment and much-needed additional space.  Wherever possible, the architects have developed spaces that can be shared between Fashion and Art according to their program needs.  The Fashion Program currently occupies 8,000 square feet in Donnelly Hall, while the current footprint of the Department of Art and Digital Media in the Steel Plant Studios is 13,000 square feet.  The renovation adds 35,000 square feet of much-needed space, including fashion and art galleries; classrooms, studios, and digital labs, all featuring cutting-edge technology; and faculty offices.  The new facility will also provide a permanent retail space for MPorium (the fashion boutique operated by merchandising students) and a light-filled winter garden and café.




“We are thrilled to have this new world-class facility where students and faculty can explore and shape their creative and artistic visions,” said Dr. Lyn Lepre, Dean of the School of Communication and the Arts. “These new spaces were designed carefully and intentionally to allow for flexibility and promote collaboration. It is important for students to be exposed to creative and innovative learning spaces as they integrate education and practice.”  The schedule calls for the building to be completed in early fall 2018, with the Fashion and Art & Digital Media programs moving into the building throughout the remainder of the fall.  In this way, there will be adequate time to set up the classrooms and studios for the beginning of the spring 2019 semester.

The Fashion Program is among Marist’s best known and most innovative academic departments.  It is ranked 11th best fashion program in the USA and 38th best worldwide by top industry news resource Business of Fashion and was recently ranked #25 globally by CEOWorld in its “Best Fashion Schools in the World For 2018” listing.  Our Fashion students have also been recognized nationally for their achievements by the Council of Fashion Designers of America and the YMA–Fashion Scholarship Fund, a nonprofit dedicated to advancing the fashion industry by encouraging talented people to pursue fashion careers.  Students can major in either design or merchandising, and they gain professional experience through internships both in the US and abroad.  Many spend a semester or year studying at Marist’s campus in Florence, Italy, or at L’Institut Supérieur Spécialisé de la Mode, better known as Mod’Spe Paris, a well-known and highly respected fashion business school.  (Marist’s brand new MS in Global Fashion Merchandising degree was launched in partnership with Mod’Spe.)  Students also work behind the scenes at New York Fashion Week shows and stage their own annual production, the Silver Needle Runway Show. 

Image of Steel Plant indoor construction

The Department of Art & Digital Media offers students the opportunity to develop as artists, graphic designers, digital-media creators, or scholars while pursuing undergraduate degrees focused on studio art, art history, or digital media.  Like their counterparts in Fashion, students often spend a semester, a year, or more at the College’s campus in Florence, Italy, where programs lead to bachelor’s degrees in studio art, art history, digital media, as well as special ones in conservation studies or interior design or a master’s in museum studies.  They also intern at some of the most prestigious firms and organizations in New York City, thanks to the School of Communication and the Arts’ strong relationships with major media companies, museums, and galleries.  Studio art majors showcase their work in an annual exhibition or in pop-up galleries they create in nearby downtown venues.

Finally, the new Steel Plant will boast one other unique feature, and its origin is a mystery.  During the excavation phase of the project, workers discovered several large millstones used for grinding grain, an activity perhaps harkening back to the building’s distant past.  Who the millstones belonged to is not known, but they are quite old, and Director of Archives and Special Collections John Ansley is researching their provenance.  In the meantime, the extremely heavy stones will remain right where they are, underneath the floor but covered by glass and illuminated for all to see.  In this way, visitors to the Steel Plant will not only be dazzled by the new, they literally walk over the old.

Image of large millstones found in Steel Plant during excavation

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