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Five Theatre Projects venues win 2017 USITT architecture awards

USA – Five Theatre Projects venues have won 2017 architecture awards from the United States Institute for Theatre Technology (USITT). The Milton and Tamar Maltz Performing Arts Center at Case Western Reserve University and the Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts at Queen's University received Honour Awards – USITT’s highest architectural award. Three other projects: the Moss Arts Center at Virginia Tech, the Bicknell Family Center for the Arts at Pittsburg State University and the Musco Center for the Arts at Chapman University earned Merit Awards.

The USITT award-winning projects were chosen based on creativity, contextual resonance, functional operation, use of new technology, and community contributions. With these five awards, Theatre Projects has now earned over 45 USITT Awards, more than any other theatre consultant.

The Maltz Performing Arts Center is an adaptive reuse of a historic synagogue bordering the campus of Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland. To adapt the facility so it could stage a full-scale orchestra and still host religious services, Theatre Projects collaborated with MGA Partners and Akustiks to provide performance and staging flexibility while honouring the architecture of the 93-year-old temple. To achieve this dual use, the design team created an 80-foot-wide adjustable acoustic canopy, which hangs over the stage and holds lighting and AV equipment and adjusts to alter the acoustic environment as needed. A new stage is composed of lifts and platforms that can rise from the floor to accommodate large groups of performers. Overhead, stained glass windows slide open to reveal discreet stage lighting. A full symphony orchestra can take the stage one night and the temple can host services the very next day, with each group feeling like the venue was designed just for them.

“This is a very important building, not just in Cleveland’s history, but also in American and Jewish history,” Scott Crossfield, Theatre Projects’ design principal, said. “It’s an important gateway to the western side of campus and an important lead-in to future development at the university. We’re very proud to be part of this historic renovation, which required a deft hand and a light touch.”

In Kingston, Ontario, Theatre Projects worked with Snøhetta and N45 Architecture to create one of Canada’s most stunning arts centres. Sitting on the shores of Lake Ontario, the Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts at Queen’s University is both a singularly beautiful landmark and a robust venue that fosters a collaborative educational environment. The project was partly an adaptive reuse of a 182-year-old distillery, the masonry and floorboards of which were incorporated into the interiors of the 65,000-square-foot addition.

At the heart of the centre is a concert hall based on the classic shoebox form, but Theatre Projects designed the room with a smaller volume and softened the corners of the 360-degree balcony for improved sightlines and greater intimacy. The concert hall’s balcony connects directly to the choir loft, which Theatre Projects designed as low as possible to achieve the best performance angle and for greater sound projection. Theatre Projects managed the seamless and discreet integration of the theatre equipment into the hall, resulting in lighting, rigging, and adjustable acoustic devices that are invisible from the audience’s perspective.

“Queen’s was absolutely the most beautiful site we’ve ever built on," David H. Rosenburg, Theatre Projects’ project manager, said. "From the moment you walk in to the building, you’re very aware that it’s part of something larger than itself. There’s a constant connection to the outside, in part, because of the very liberal use of glass."

At Pittsburg State University’s Bicknell Center for the Arts, Theatre Projects worked with William Rawn Associates and ACI Boland Architects to design a 96,000-square-foot centre to serve the university’s performing arts programme, community arts groups, and touring companies. The centrepiece of the building is an 1,100-seat multi-purpose theatre that can accommodate symphony, opera, drama, dance, amplified music, and more. A 250-seat flexible courtyard theatre features an adjustable stage that can be arranged in endstage or thrust configurations and serves as the main stage for the university’s drama department.

Theatre Projects’ cost-effective planning and design helped Pittsburg State University gain a world-class arts centre at an incredible value. In order to keep costs down, the facility was built in large part with pre-cast concrete panels, negating the need for the construction team to pour concrete on site.

After launching an initiative in 2005 to “expand creative practice and support interdisciplinary learning, and engagement through the arts,” Virginia Tech set out to create facilities that would meet their ambitious vision. Working with Snøhetta and STV Incorporated, Theatre Projects designed the versatile Moss Arts Center to do just that. The new 147,000-square-foot centre includes a 1,300-seat multi-purpose theatre, a multimedia development studio, several art galleries, a TV studio, administrative offices, and the Collaborative Performance Lab – a modified black box theatre, known as The Cube.

The most innovative feature of the new centre, The Cube, is essentially a robust black box theatre featuring a large performance, rehearsal, and audience space surrounded on all sides by technical galleries. The key to the highly adaptable room is the infrastructure, which Theatre Projects designed in order to allow the university to bring in any element and equipment imaginable. The Cube features chain motors, theatrical drapes, and, instead of a pipe grid typical of black box theatres, the venue features a 32-foot tall gridiron, capable of rigging lighting, scenery, props, and video and audio equipment in infinite combinations. The room’s impressive capability has made it the perfect home for the university’s interdisciplinary programs and a centre for collaboration and experimentation. Perhaps the most in-demand space on campus, The Cube acts as a virtual reality and motion capture studio, a dance and performance space, a live music venue, a planetarium, a video art gallery, and much more.

The story of the Musco Center's 1,044-seat theatre is one of versatility. The university wanted both a dynamic performance space for drama, dance, and opera, and a world-class venue for symphonic and choral music, so Theatre Projects collaborated with Pfeiffer and Nagata Acoustics to create a room that can transform from proscenium to concert hall in less than an hour through the use of a one-of-a-kind fully flown orchestra shell. The unique 120,000-pound shell not only creates an exceptionally dynamic sonic environment, but also provides a cohesive architectural style to the room. The design team put a lot of care into making a beautiful performance space that doesn’t just feel like a proscenium theatre with an orchestra shell. It’s a concert hall where the shell can come out, and it’s one of the most well-integrated orchestra shells Theatre Projects has ever designed. The centre also includes staging areas, dressing rooms, a green room, and a state-of-the-art recording studio.

17th March 2017

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