When the PPL Public Media Center, home of PBS39, moved “down the hill” to the Steel Stacks campus and the emerging nexus of art and the community, PBS personnel collaborated with the AECOM team to produce a new component of Bethlehem’s revitalized arts district, one that represents the modern character of a state-of-the-art facility with a nod to the storied past of the Steel Stacks.
The north façade of the building features metal mesh, precast concrete, and charred cedar that reflect the site’s industrial heritage. The juxtaposition of materials mimics the artistic vibe of the present-day district against the backdrop of the formidable steel stacks. The contrast in technology is also striking, with the hulking manufacturing facility metaphorically overshadowed by the sophistication within PPL Public Media Center. The high-definition studios available in the Steel Stacks are the closest in kind and proximity to those in New York City.
The building’s extruded metal skin is backlit with color-changing LED lights, creating a stunning streetscape that is replicated in nearby buildings. The interior features public spaces that are cleanly detailed, open, and inviting to the public. Punched openings in the first floor create a connection with the lobby above, which is also accented by punched spaces to accentuate volume. In a deliberate effort to make the building part of the community at large, “back of house” spaces such as the Tech Core and the Master Control are displayed instead of hidden. This connection with the public realm is continued with the large-scale media wall toward the front of the building, with a community meeting space that engages the landscape and creates the potential for external event spaces amid this art-infused campus. These spaces represent and engender the interaction and utilization essential to a public broadcasting system.