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  • US-11221 New York
  • Built project

Dwana Smallwood Performing Arts Centre


Project description:
Jordan Parnass Digital Architecture, a design practice known for creating high-impact environments, has completed the new Dwana Smallwood Performing Arts Center in Brooklyn, N.Y. The design is a collaboration with the former professional dancer, Dwana Smallwood and directly supported by the Oprah Winfrey Foundation. The new center celebrates the study of dance in early childhood development, and builds confidence through dance education to mold the next generation of elite professional... +
Jordan Parnass Digital Architecture, a design practice known for creating high-impact environments, has completed the new Dwana Smallwood Performing Arts Center in Brooklyn, N.Y. The design is a collaboration with the former professional dancer, Dwana Smallwood and directly supported by the Oprah Winfrey Foundation. The new center celebrates the study of dance in early childhood development, and builds confidence through dance education to mold the next generation of elite professional dancers in the community of Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, NY.

The client decided to start her own dance arts educational organization after working with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and serving as Director of Student Affairs at Oprah Winfrey’s Leadership Academy for Girls in South Africa. Dwana Smallwood grew up in the Bedford-Stuyvesant community, and wanted to bring her success back to her hometown community. Indeed, it was Oprah’s enthusiasm and direct support of the center that spurred the growth of the organization to serve local Brooklyn’s needs.

Soliciting the help of architect, Jordan Parnass, he and his practice were able to provide the kind of artistic flair and simple, elegant design that really made the dancers themselves a real centerpiece for the building. The early design process involved a series of dance studies using the choreography of the dancer to inspire a direct abstraction through the flow of the space inside.

Approaching the Center’s entrance displays an emboldened oran¬ge awning features that imitates the dramatic flair of energy to the street. Through the entry stairway, a rippling wall feature vibrates along the path upstairs, leading to the light and airy reception area. This is where the ripples dissipate into full-blown ceiling features that elegantly break up the exposed industrial ceiling and aid with sound absorbency, keeping the space bright and playful.

The reception opens up to a colorful and warm library that provides comfortable seating, and open, aerie dance studios with hardwood sprung floors and bright skylights. The two studios are flexibly divided and can open up to one large dance stage with blackout curtains when it’s performance time for the community, which often facilitates performances of all kinds by different community groups.

Overall the transformation of this industrial space into a dynamic center of creativity has blown away Dwana Smallwood’s expectations, and excited the community with a big opening event of various dance performances. The Center today is home to bustling girls in ballet slippers and the Bedford-Stuyvesant community beyond. -


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  • Project data

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    Start of construction 11/2014
    Completion 10/2015
    Type of building Community centers, Cultural centers / Recreational facilities, Youth centers, Youth clubs / Sports facilities, Sports grounds, Gymnasiums (Remodeling, Conversion)
    Project size
    Building plot 3.920 m2
    Project address 875 Lexington Street
    US-11221 New York
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