Earlier this month, RIT proudly released plans to build MAGIC Spell Studios, new space to nurture programs that “consciously and deliberately blur the lines between arts and the sciences, between technology and expression” through the MAGIC Center. This space promises to push the institute even further as a leader in the digital media industry and the community is hungry for updates. Although there’s still much to be determined, Director of Planning and Design James Yarrington let us know the current status of the building plans.

RIT recently received a $12 million pledge from New York State to go toward basic building shell costs, as well as $12.4 million from Cisco Systems Inc. and $3 million from Dell for the new center’s equipment.

Yarrington started the programming and conceptual design process before MAGIC’s $12 million pledge from New York State was finalized, and he had initially planned the building based on a gross project of about $16 million. Based on that cost, the concept sat at three floors and around 42,000-43,000 gross square feet, which is almost the size of the CAST building if it were free-standing.


In addition to much-needed extra lab space, another exciting feature in the new building’s plans is a film-quality sound studio much larger than what RIT currently has. Right now, there is a focus on needs for interactive gaming and film and animation, but there has also been discussion of creating more space for the imaging science department.

As far as internal design goes, Yarrington says “ There are a lot of parts of the building that want to be visually and acoustically opaque, like the theater and the sound stage. A thought I’ve been playing with is creating a large display of electronic art and information, almost like a bit of Time Square, that shows off designs from the school.”

Exact location is still being determined, but there are a few options under consideration. Factors that will impact the decision will include how well a location lends itself to an energy efficient design and how well a location interacts with existing entities.

“I always look for more opportunities to create density in activity to make the campus a more vibrant place,” Yarrington explained.

The architecture and design concept could be scaled down or up depending on any additional support from the state and gifts, which are a large possibility considering, according to Yarrington, the entire building has naming potential. The amount RIT itself will put toward the venture is still yet to be released.

Once funding is finalized, designs will be reviewed by key figures such as the Provost, Senior Vice President for Finance and Administration Dr. James H. Watters and department chairs to ensure the interrelation of facilities makes sense program-wise and technically.

After additional refining is done in-house, since this is a large project, RIT will find an external consultant to work as the architect of record and design the facility in detail. Yarrington says that sending out requests for proposals is not too far down the line.


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