The role of landscape architecture has in recent years been reassessed and greatly expanded. Today critical attention is being paid to the spaces between buildings, to ecologically savvy planting on the top of buildings, and to the resuscitation of post-industrial tracts on several continents. For over two decades, however, Snøhetta has integrated architecture and landscape in even more fundamental ways. Based in Oslo and, more recently, New York these designers seem to regard buildings not as something surrounded by or adorned by landscape but as landscape agents, as robust semi-natural elements in themselves. Snøhetta sprang to international acclaim with their competition-winning proposal to rebuild the famed Alexandria Library, a project inaugurated in 2002. In Egypt, next to the Mediterranean corniche, the terraced floor plates of the interior are sheltered by the library’s iconic roof, a giant tilted disk. Closer to home, literally rising from the Oslo Fjord, Norway’s new Opera House is similarly a composition of monolithic masses and topographic planes. Completed in 2008, the opera is no abstract object idealized in isolation but an urban magnet, a catalyst of regeneration that encourages the public to gather, linger and explore. Now Snøhetta has completed the first of several projects in the United States. Realized together with associate practice The Collaborative Inc., The Wolfe Center for the Arts rises from the flat terrain of northwest Ohio as a canted plinth topped by a ribbed fly tower. The new facility addresses the surrounding campus of Bowling Green State University by sloping up from the east, where the planted roof surface is accessible from adjacent dormitories, and cantilevering out to the west where it shelters a generous entry porch. The soffit of this porch is inlaid with flush light fittings, a kind of geometric ornament with echoes throughout the building. The main body of the Wolfe Center is angled in relation to the dominant campus grid. This rotation gives the overall massing a certain energy. It also visually connects the art school to the south and more recessive music school to the north. Each of the long side flanks of flush steel panels is incised by a narrow vertical slice. These permit transverse circulation between the schools through the heart of the new building. At the base of the fly tower, a glazed stratum of office accommodation overlooks the grass slope, a striped terrace, and a loading dock. The hovering elevation to the west offers a contiguous vitrine in the prow above and glimpses below into a welcoming foyer. If Snøhetta’s buildings are frequently monoliths exploiting the qualities of a single material (granite in Alexandria; Carrara marble in Oslo; wood for the Lillehammer Art Museum), their buildings are also social condensers, communal spaces dedicated not to architectural ego but a sense of collectivity. Their projects have also had to contend with severe weather conditions. Consequently Snøhetta’s architecture is intimately connected to sunlight: to the joyous embrace of light in Norway and its shading or filtration in the Middle East. In Ohio, the great roof datum is punctured by strategic cuts to admit daylight deep into the interior of the Wolfe Center. The new building is for all the arts; nevertheless theater and performance are the crucial programmatic elements. Snøhetta was able to include Theatre Projects Consultants and acousticians Akustiks alongside The Collaborative Inc. on the design team - if their buildings prioritize social space, Snøhetta is also alert to the communal nature of the design process. There’s a main theater at ground level; a more experimental black box theater named for Eva Marie Saint, a Bowling Green graduate and star of Hitchcock’s North by Northwest; a choral space with a serpentine dado of acoustic baffle; and a dance studio upstairs with the necessary barre handrails and mirrored walls. The main performance space, known as the Donnell Theatre, benefits from a generous stage beneath the machinery of the high, professional-quality fly tower. The forward segment of the stage can be lowered to increase audience capacity from 360 to approximately 400. The balcony is arranged in an intimate horseshoe about the stage, its gently torquing balustrade made from grey-stained plywood in which the grain is faintly visible. The color tone of the interior is warm grey with chair upholstery ranging in a calibrated spectrum from dark to pale grey. A curious if engaging detail awaits in the foyer leading to the Eva Marie Saint theater. The floor is inset with rectangles of glass beneath which mosaic fragments from ancient Antioch are displayed. The mosaics have been at the university for decades yet lacked an appropriate home. They are now illuminated as a kind of archaeological “red carpet”. The theaters are dark whereas public spaces are conversely bathed in light. The west façade opens to a double-height hall occupied by an oblong staircase used for sitting as well as circulation, like a slice of a Greek outdoor theater. The floor is polished concrete made with local river sand; as a result, the underside of the stairs reflects an almost golden glow. Walls are made from exposed concrete overlaid, on upper surfaces, with plywood panels similar to the theatre balustrade. One major artwork occupies an entire inner façade, the outer flank of the Donnell Theatre. This is a photographic work in 39 panels by the young Norwegian artist Anne Senstad. It re-presents light itself in a sequence ranging between grey and pale yellow. One large skylight admits light into the foyer space. A second skylight brings light into the double-height corridor to the rear of the Donnell Theatre, the busy “indoor street” enabling circulation between the schools of art and music. In workroom spaces east of this intimate thoroughfare, the architects occasionally take advantage of adjacencies (horizontal and vertical) to insert glazed openings for light and views. Upstairs, there’s an attractive student lounge between the billboard-like front vitrine and the cascading internal stairs. Light fixtures in the indoor street are arranged like dashes as a simple electric sculpture. Bathrooms reveal black and white tiles in similar dramatic patterns. At Bowling Green, Snøhetta, its collaborators and its clients have achieved a generously scaled and luminous building on a comparatively modest budget. It is not indebted to fashion; nevertheless one might term the Wolfe Center iconic - it certainly has a unique and memorable presence on the campus. Elsewhere in the United States, Snøhetta’s National September 11 Memorial and Museum (also a canted monolith) is nearing completion in Lower Manhattan whereas much is expected of their large extension to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (depending on one’s view, a pleated cliff or a masonry cloud) still in the design phase. The social and symbolic role of Snøhetta’s architecture was evident during the Arab Spring as Egyptians joined hands to protect the Alexandria Library. Bowling Green may face less pressing issues; yet its actors, musicians, technicians and academics now become the stewards of a facility full of opportunity. The Wolfe Center is like a natural attractor. Its interior and exterior spaces are waiting to be inhabited, utilized and shared.