Site and Context – Community Connections

The Playhouse has been a beloved pillar of its cultural community since 1919 and has grown into the second largest community theatre in the U.S. with more than 55,000 annual attendees and 30,000 annual educational program participants.

Due to the continual success of its programs and a growing need to service more of the community, the Playhouse sought to renovate and expand its historic structure. An informed decision-making process led to the selection of the new strategically sited first phase addition of a lobby and entryway. The siting of the addition, along a highly visible city thoroughfare, removed a derelict structure not utilized by the client. The transformed entry now serves as a marquee for the Playhouse and a prominent gateway to the Roosevelt Cultural District. This thoughtful intervention is only the first part of a comprehensive master plan and multi-phased design approach for the Playhouse. The excitement generated by the completion of this first phase is intended to spark additional fundraising for future phases.

Design Intentions and Approach

Several tenets shaped the design: a commitment to sustainability and building performance, enriched visitor experience, user comfort, and extending the life of the Playhouse.

The new glass lobby is a hub of communication and social interaction, giving people an open and bright space to engage with and enjoy the Playhouse. It activates the street with a transparent envelope that allows passersby to view activities inside, bringing the culture of the theater closer to the community. The space serves as a gathering area before and after performances, a host for Playhouse and community events, and has even been adopted as an alternative rehearsal venue by the children’s theater camp. While the delicate glass lobby is of modern design, the team paid homage to the 1934 structure by keeping much of the original stonework, knitting the history of the community with its bright and expanding future.

To maximize the use of available daylight and exterior views, the new design for the Playhouse addition includes extensive glazing, optimizing the interior daylight levels while providing low heat losses and reduced solar heat gain. The new building façade includes an exterior sunshade that was designed to mitigate the western solar exposure, utilizing horizontal louvers that prevent excessive heating and enhance internal glare control. The low-e insulated glazing system includes an integrated ceramic silk-screened frit with a custom pattern that obscures the direct sunshine while allowing diffuse light and views into and from the new multi-purpose space. To provide maximum flexibility on the interior of the new addition, a uniform bi-level motorized interior shade system was designed to add an additional level of glare control while still allowing the maximum daylight to filter into the space.

In addition to the daylighting strategies, the building incorporates a high performance exterior envelope, low energy architectural LED lighting as well a high albedo roof membrane that reduces the total heat load and energy requirements on the new mechanical systems.

Sustainability

To maximize the use of available daylight and views, the new design for the Playhouse addition includes extensive glazing optimizing the interior daylight levels while providing low heat losses and reduced solar heat gain. The new building façade includes an exterior sunshade that was designed based on the south-west solar exposure and utilizes horizontal louvers that prevents excessive heating and enhances internal glare control. The low-e insulated glazing also includes an integrated ceramic silk-screened frit with a custom pattern that obscures the direct sunshine while allowing diffuse light and views into and from the new multi-purpose space. To provide maximum flexibility on the interior of the new addition, a uniform bi-level motorized interior shade system was designed to add an additional level of glare control while still allowing the maximum daylighting to filter into the space.

In addition to the daylighting strategies, the building incorporates a high performance exterior envelope, low energy architectural LED lighting as well a high albedo roof membrane that reduces the total heat load and energy requirements on the new mechanical systems.

Future Phases

Future design phases will focus on renovating the 400-seat main stage theater, existing lobbies, and support contained within the existing building envelope.

The existing 1934 theater space will receive updated infrastructure, technical equipment, theatrical support, and lighting. These improvements, along with the new entry lobby, will transition the Playhouse main stage theater into a contemporary theatrical space and reinforce this venerable institution as a valued community resource for future generations to experience.