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Jordan Parnass Digital Architecture


Brooklyn, NY, USA

Architect in Charge

Jordan Parnass


3920.0 ft2

Project Year



Amy Barkow


© Amy Barkow

From the architect. The new Dwana Smallwood Performing Arts Center in Brooklyn, N.Y. is a collaboration between the former professional dancer, Dwana Smallwood, and the Oprah Winfrey Foundation. Celebrating the study of dance in early childhood, the center works to build confidence through dance education and provide the future with a new generation of elite professional dancers from the community of Bedford- Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, NY.


The center was designed using Jordan Parnass Digital Architecture, a design practice that is known for creating high-impact environments. With the help of Jordan Parnass himself, the center was able to embrace the artistic flair, and simple, elegant design that makes the dancers the centerpiece and inspiration for the building.

© Amy Barkow

After working with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre and serving as Director of Student Affairs at Oprah Winfrey's Leadership Academy for Girls in South Africa, Dwana Smallwood decided to start her own educational organization dedicated to the art of dance. With the intention of bringing her success back to her hometown community, Dwana embraced Oprah's enthusiasm and the direct support from the center to use the organization to serve the needs of her community.


The initial design process incorporated a series of dance studies where the choreography of the dancers was used to inspire direct abstraction through the flow of space inside. The entrance to the center displays a bold orange awning that imitates the dramatic flair of energy and as you emerge into the entry stairway, a rippling wall feature vibrates along the path to the upstairs area where there is light and an airy reception space. Here, the ripples dissipate into a full ceiling feature that elegantly breaks up the exposed industrial ceiling. With the aid of some sound absorbency, it keeps the space bright and playful.

© Amy Barkow

From here, the reception opens up into a colorful library that provides a warm atmosphere and comfortable seating. Two open and airy dance studios with hardwood sprung floors have been constructed, complete with bright skylights and a flexible divide for the purpose of combining the two studios to form one large dance stage. The larger dance stage is fitted with blackout curtains for when its performance time for the community which often smooths the transition of the variety of performances by different community groups.

© Amy Barkow

The overall transformation of this industrial space into a creative and dynamic center for performing arts has surpassed even Dwana Smallwood's expectations. The introduction of the center within the community was launched with an opening that incorporated various dance performances. Today, the center is home to girls in ballet slips and is a central creative hub for the Bedford-Stuyvesant community and beyond.

© Amy Barkow

Product Description. The Hakatai mosaic tile was integral to adding a colorful feature at an affordable scale for the newly nonprofit client. We used abstracted dance movement by the founder, Dwana Smallwood, an accomplished professional dancer and educator, and replicated the movement into an inspired graphic. In collaboration with Hakatai, they were able to translate our image file into a large wall mosaic in our restrooms and locker rooms, each with a different color scheme that befits the dance culture of the center.

Original Source