Location: Savannah, GA, United States
Completion date: 2019
President and founder
Chief operating officer
Design and production
SCAD Design Group
Associate dean of academic services; B.F.A., painting, 1997
B.F.A., illustration, 2006
B.F.A., illustration, 1995
Professor of painting; M.F.A., painting, 1990
B.F.A., illustration, 2016
B.F.A., illustration, 2006
Preparator, SCAD Museum of Art
Ruskin Hall combines the classical with the contemporary.
Overlooking Forsyth Park in historic downtown Savannah, Georgia, the Candler Hospital was built in 1819 and rededicated as Ruskin Hall in 2018. Today, the building is home to the SCAD Admission Welcome Center, the Office of Career and Alumni Success, and SCADpro—the university’s elite collaborative innovation studio.
To create a welcoming, student-focused environment, visitors to Ruskin Hall are immersed in art—from site-specific installations to paintings installed floor-to-ceiling, salon-style. Vintage and modern portraits—unique depictions of President Paula Wallace, and members of her family who were integral to SCAD’s development, and more—are included among the works. Of particular significance is a commissioned portrait of Paula Wallace’s grandmother, created by SCAD Museum of Art preparator Nick Vitelli, based on a black-and-white photo. The paintings gallery also features works of art and antiques acquired by President Wallace and Glenn Wallace during their visits to SCAD locations in Savannah and Atlanta, Georgia, and Lacoste, France.
This emphasis on intersections between old and new reflects the history of Ruskin Hall— from hospital to education center, always focused on serving others selflessly.
Ruskin Hall is as much a living gallery as it is a center for creative inquiry. Central to the theme of the building’s functional program, the university has created an artistic nexus that represents the full cycle of the SCAD student experience. During recruitment events and tours, prospective students and their families meet elite students and faculty at SCADpro who develop design solutions for global clientele. During the same SCAD experience, admission ambassadors highlight Career and Alumni Success, the university’s in-house talent agency—known as CAS—where employment specialists work with students and alumni to achieve SCAD’s unrivaled 99 percent employment rate.
Every space at SCAD presents unique challenges for the university's design team. SCAD's goal was to create a distinct but complementary identity for each department, creating synergies of openness, privacy, security, access, and efficiency – at the same time that every visitor to Ruskin Hall has a warm, welcoming experience. Ruskin Hall's interior design celebrates both the building's historic fabric and defining attributes of admission, CAS, and SCADpro. SCAD has preserved key elements while challenging preconceptions of historic preservation, arriving at a hybrid approach SCAD brands "Preservation Design."
SCAD executives, working collaboratively with the SCAD design team, developed an interior concept that would evoke feelings of welcome and comfort through open and inviting spaces to engage, learn, and connect. Art, furniture, fabrics, and furnishings are central to the design aesthetic, each combining to enhance perceptions of collegiate excellence interwoven with tradition. These site-specific murals and SCAD alumni pieces coalesce toward a cohesive, inspiring experience.
The design team also focused on reinforcing technological enhancements and organizational structures through distinct emphases on SCAD's rich colors and finishes. Preeminent student and alumni artwork, bold and sophisticated gestures with color and pattern, and unexpected moments of wonder, surprise, and delight distinguish SCAD projects.
SCAD's Ruskin Hall renovation design produces a multilayered, multisensory experience which respects, reflects, and reimagines the 200-year architectural history of the building at the same time that it joyfully celebrates the vibrant culture and sprit of SCAD, its students, and the Savannah community.
Portraits of Paula Wallace, May Poetter, Paul Poetter, and Pam Poetter were each commissioned from SCAD alumni. There is also a portrait of John Ruskin—from whom the university’s motto, “Fine art is that in which the hand, the head, and the heart of man go together,” is derived. SCAD alumni with commissioned portraits include: Kent Knowles (associate dean of academic services; B.F.A., painting, 1997); Amy Lind (B.F.A., illustration, 2006); Troy Wandzel (B.F.A., illustration, 1995); Gregory Eltringham (professor of painting; M.F.A., painting, 1990); and Seth Fite (B.F.A., illustration, 2016). In addition, the side room fireplace is filled with antique books. Above the fireplace mantel, a painting of a girl with a bee on her face was produced by Kent Knowles. In the welcome room—where prospective students begin their SCAD Day experiences—a book mural by Kyle Millsap (B.F.A., illustration, 2006) includes the names of 61 members of the SCAD Ruskin Society. Ruskin Hall exemplifies SCAD's educational and entrepreneurial spirits. Here, SCAD students take the first steps of the university's mission: to prepare talented students for creative professions. With every step, potential students, their parents, and current SCAD Bees experience first-hand what a SCAD education can mean.