Photo: Students gather in Pacific Northwest College of Art’s new home in a repurposed federal building. Here, you can see students appreciating the juxtaposition of old and new. Photo courtesy of PNCA

Having a beautiful campus is about more than aesthetics: it frequently also has an impact on whether students will choose to enroll at a school. Schools whose campuses are consistently ranked among the most beautiful often put serious dollars into maintaining that image.

“The best way we have for recruiting students is to give them a plane ticket and get them on campus,” says University of Nevada president Marc Johnson. “I literally hear people say, ‘The moment I stepped foot on campus, I knew I belonged here.’ The architecture and the way we put the campus together has had a great impact, and we intentionally build student success into the design of these buildings.”

Julia Ferrante, Director of News at Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts, stresses the importance of campus design in promoting a permanent sense of community among students and alumnae: “The living learning spaces evoke a feeling of pride and belonging, and that feeling contributes to students treasuring their time here and to the affinity alumnae take with them after graduation.”

Surprise—some of the most beautiful campuses belong to art schools. Let’s take a looksee at four stunning art school campuses here in the U.S.

1. Pacific Northwest College of Art

Pacific Northwest College of Art (PNCA) recently moved into a beautifully renovated space in the Pearl District of Portland, Oregon. The historic Federal building (now known as the PNCA 511 Building) was originally built as a post office in 1919, and the renovation was part modernizing and part restoring its old-world charm: sawtooth skylights were reopened, transom windows were restored, and the original marble walls and tiled floors were saved. The renovations of the PNCA 511 Building were also lauded for a focus on sustainable features and practices, which earned the school a LEED BD+C certification and score of Platinum (81/100).

Take a virtual tour of PNCA

2. Maryland Institute College of Art

Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA), located in Baltimore, Maryland, also has historical roots. Its main building, which houses the President’s Office and the photography department (among others), was originally built in 1908 with help from philanthropists like Andrew Carnegie. The newer state-of-the-art Brown Center was built specifically for design students and time-based media and has been lauded as one of the finest modern buildings in Baltimore in recent history.

Take a virtual tour of MICA

3. California College of the Arts

California College of the Arts (CCA) is divided into two campuses: one in Oakland and the other in San Francisco. Most students start out on the Oakland campus, as it houses the First Year Program and many of the fine arts programs. This historic campus is full of charm and is home to the historic Macky Hall (built in 1875), where the school was originally founded in 1922. The San Francisco campus is home to all of CCA’s graduate programs and a few undergraduate programs. The main building on campus was formerly a Greyhound Bus maintenance facility in the 1950s. Today, its light-filled, industrial-style design is perfect for the school’s many programs, collaborations, and exhibitions.

Take a virtual tour of Calart

4. Ramón C. Cortines School of Visual and Performing Arts (Grand Arts High School)

Ramón C. Cortines School of Visual and Performing Arts, located near downtown Los Angeles, is a magnet public school with a stunning facility in the direct vicinity of Disney Concert Hall, the Museum of Contemporary Art, and the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels. The school has four academies, each specializing in a particular area alongside general education: visual arts, dance, music, and theater arts. The facility, which opened in 2009, was designed by HMC Architects and Coop Himmelb(l)au. It is at once bold, unconventional, beautiful, futuristic, and strange—qualities that seem very much fitting for an art school.

No virtual tour available.

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