UNL Johnny Carson Center for Emerging Media Arts

UNL Johnny Carson Center Emerging Media Arts

UNL Johnny Carson Center for Emerging Media Arts

Curriculum Meets Building Design for Emerging Media Arts

The Johnny Carson Center for Emerging Media Arts is an innovative new program at the Hixson-Lied College of Fine and Performing Arts at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln.  Its vision is to become “the premier destination in the world for creative, young pioneers who use technology to innovate, to solve human-scale problems, to entertain audiences, and to tell breathtaking stories that stimulate, provoke and inspire.”

Our HDR team worked closely with the school to help envision how the program’s arts-centred curriculum design could be supported through adaptive reuse of an existing building on campus. As the curriculum design and building design were developed in tandem, we worked with the university to develop an integrated design solution that fosters collaboration and creative exploration, creating an energy that attracts the next leaders in emerging media arts.

Informed by visits to a number of other colleges and corporate offices, including Stanford’s d.school, Pixar Inc., YouTube Spaces, Technicolor Experience Center, and California College of the Arts, our design team worked alongside the departments within the Hixon-Lied College of Fine and Performing Arts and the facilities team to design a space where students feel comfortable exploring, creating, adapting, and experimenting with new ideas.


  • The building’s location on a main corridor and transparency in the building design provide a great opportunity to put emerging media arts on display and pique curiosity within the community.  
  • Two Emerging Media Arts Labs for shooting, motion capture, and data capture and an Audio Lab provide active learning space and technology to support the new program.
  • Raw studio space conveys an adaptable, nonprecious environment so students’ work can evolve and keep pace with the evolution and reinvention of media over time.
  • Technological capacity supports flexible use — by pulling the power overhead, the space can easily flex to accommodate different needs whether that be for studio space, gallery space, lab space, etc.
  • Informal learning and meeting spaces are integrated with formal learning zones, which creates a community of interdisciplinary learners, peer-to-peer teachers and entrepreneurs.

Class began in the building in 2019. The same year it was named a research site HP-Educause’s Campus of the Future program — one of 15 sites across the United States that will research using new technology and help determine how best to apply it to teaching. The Johnny Carson Center is the only research site at a Big Ten school.

UNL Johnny Carson Center Emerging Media Arts
University of Nebraska—Lincoln

Lincoln, NE
United States

40,000 SF (3716 m²)