THEVERYMANY first developed its idea with a similar, but smaller, installation in France. That project, Pleated Inflation, was installed at a school in Argeles, near the border with Spain.
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The LPC is working with the owner to make sure plaster gets put back in place. The two parties agreed to $10 million bond for storage and periodic inspection of the plaster, though the commission said those details still being hammered out. One major requirement of interior landmarks is that they remain open to the public. Patrick Waldo of preservation advocacy group Historic Districts Council (HDC), as well as Christabel Gough of the Society for the Architecture of the City, raised concerns about the accessibility of a space that fronts a future (private) apartment lobby. HDC "strongly" suggested the street entrance be re-examined to expose the interior more fully; at the very least, the group recommended strong wayfinding signage to alert the public to the presence of the landmark.
To get more insight into the theater's place in New York history, Gunts reached out to Anthony Robins, a former senior preservation specialist at the agency who wrote the original designation report, for more on RKO Keith's. Here's what he had to say:
The recent history of the RKO Keith’s—once a mainstay of Flushing—has been dismal. Designed by Thomas Lamb—perhaps New York’s most prolific theater designer—it was planned originally as a vaudeville theater, with movies more or less an afterthought. Lamb designed it as a so-called “atmospheric” theater, attempting to create the illusion that the theater’s customers were seated outside, under the stars, in a picturesque Spanish village. The Spanish-inspired ornament ran throughout the theater into all its major spaces. Located at the major intersection of Main Street and Northern Boulevard, the Keith’s became a very visible institution in the neighborhood.By 1984, the Keith’s, still in use as a movie theater, was one of only three major “atmospheric” theaters surviving in New York City (the others being the Loew’s Paradise in the Bronx and the Valencia in Queens, both now official landmarks). The Landmarks Preservation Commission’s designation of the Keith’s entire interior that year was cut back at the Board of Estimate to include just the grand foyer—apparently because a politically connected developer wanted to include the site in a proposed new shopping mall. That plan evaporated, as did the plans of a subsequent developer, but the Keith’s remained shuttered; for 30 years it has sat vacant, decaying and crumbling, its interiors long since vandalized, even as other grand movie palaces have been lovingly restored. Now comes the ultimate indignity of the proposed demolition of the theater shell, and the grand foyer’s disassembly and reconstruction, all by itself, as an odd relic of a vanished theater from another era. There can be no happy ending for this story.
For the past four years, Ragdale, an artist residency in Chicago’s North Shore, has asked young architects to reimagine a historic garden stage that was once a focal point of its property. In these short years, the Ragdale Ring competition, and the accompanying Adrian Smith Prize, have proven to be architecturally adventurous, and often playfully eccentric.
This year’s iteration will be built by the Ann Arbor, Michigan–based T+E+A+M, a collaboration among young designers Thom Moran, Ellie Abrons, Adam Fure, and Meredith Miller. Their proposal, entitled LIVING PICTURE, superimposes images of the original 1912 Ragdale Ring onto a set of lightweight objects spread throughout the grounds. The scene of the original ring will be an immersive, if not surreal, space for the audience to become part of the theatrical setting. The varied scale of the objects also allows for the audience to position itself in relation to the stage, either sitting on or standing among the installation. The shapes, which make up the stage itself, will blend historic imagery with the lush surroundings of the property.
While the imagery on the installation will mostly be seen as disparate yet related images, audience members approaching from the Ragdale House will see the entire original Ring snap into view. Watching from the other approaches, viewers will discover the scene as a series of separate vignettes of the original.
“At the beginning of this year we suspended our individual practices and committed fully to T+E+A+M, but the fact that the four of us have practiced individually is one of the unique strengths of our collaboration,” Fure explained. “Each of us has different audiences through our previous work’s engagement with conversations inside and outside the discipline.
The objects will range in form, making up seating areas and platforms for performances. Arranged in seven clusters, most of the objects will also be hollow to provide storage. Their arrangement centralizes the audience while providing masked areas where performers can enter from stage-side.
The project will be built in late May, to be ready for four performances starting in mid-July. T+E+A+M, along with a group of workers, will live at Ragdale for 18 days to build the installation. The Adrian Smith Prize, sponsored by Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture, provides $15,000 for the construction.
The members of T+E+A+M are not strangers to exhibition and installation building. Between the four members, their work has been shown in multiple Venice biennales and at the Beijing International Art Biennale, the Shenzhen and Hong Kong Biennale, the Storefront for Art and Architecture, and the Graham Foundation, to name just a few.
T+E+A+M will join the ranks of past Ragdale Ring designers SPORTS Collaborative, Bittertang, Design With Company, and Stephen Dietrich Lee. Last year’s iteration by SPORTS, entitled Rounds, won The Architect’s Newspaper’s 2016 Best of Design Award for Temporary Installation.
- The Joyce Theater (New York, NY)
- Brooklyn Academy of Music (New York, NY)
- Lincoln Center Theater (New York, NY)
- Theatre Row (New York, NY)
- New Amsterdam Theatre (New York, NY)
- National Dance Institute (New York, NY)
- Theatre for a New Audience (New York, NY)
- Dance Theatre of Harlem (New York, NY)
- Radio City Music Hall (New York, NY)
- The New Victory Theater (New York, NY)
- Signature Theatre (New York, NY)
- Performing Arts Center at Purchase College (Purchase, NY)
- Royden B. Davis Performing Arts Center, Georgetown University (Washington, D.C.)
- The Glimmerglass Festival (Cooperstown, NY)
- Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center (Great Barrington, MA)
- Hippodrome Theatre at the France
- Merrick Performing Arts Center (Baltimore, MD)
- Wilma Theater (Philadelphia, PA)
- Two River Theater (Red Bank, NJ)
- Orchestra Hall (Minneapolis, MN)
To tell a story, three elements are crucial: setting, plot, and characters. To tell a story well, these three essentials require refinement and time to reveal them. The setting—Houston—provides the context, and the plot—how to design and build a new theater in Midtown—is compelling. The characters—a vibrant mix—complete the challenge that’s been thrown to Lake|Flato Architects and Studio RED.
Located off Main Street at the Ensemble/HCC MetroRail stop, the site was formerly a chain-linked parking lot for the city permit building. After years of planning and fundraising with a strong arts board and consultant and philanthropic pledges, the Midtown Arts and Theater Center Houston (MATCH) came to life as a nimble metal-skinned building with glass-box theaters bisected by a double-height breezeway.
The $25 million community arts complex provides a central home base in Midtown for a spectrum of leading and emerging arts and culture organizations. The 59,000-square-foot facility consists of four dedicated theater spaces, rehearsal classroom spaces, and several gallery spaces, along with back-of-house support and office space.
Ryan Jones, an associate partner at Lake|Flato, knew that the building’s breezeway, with its grandstand and functional connective artery, was key, but it took some convincing that a two-story open-air “street” for media projections would thrive given the heat and humidity that swallow most days in Houston. The solution was to install six Big Ass Fans, which keep outdoor public spaces comfortable by exhausting hot air through the chimney effect.
The building’s agile presence does not overtake its program. For this new Midtown theater and arts center, the soul of the building is internalized, and life illuminates from within the breezeway, theaters, rehearsal spaces, and control booths. The building remains in the background, allowing the exuberance of theater life and the visual arts to stand in the limelight. Its skin and structure have a subdued, protective strength amid the bustle and frenzied transactions of Travis Street traffic that includes Main Street light-rail interruptions, bus stops, church, college, and urban passersby, daily logistics, ticket sales, and cafe pauses. For Lake|Flato and Studio RED, the decision to invite the street into the building is best exemplified by their addition of graffiti art by GONZO2047 where patrons’ names are tagged on the bathroom walls to merge high art and street culture.
Houston, as described by Barrie Scardino, Bill Stern, and Bruce Webb in their book Ephemeral City, was “built around characteristic features of modern life such as rapid change, built-in obsolescence, indeterminacy, media orientation, a culture of style, and instant gratification.” It is indeed an ephemeral city, hard to pin down and understand at large, but perhaps easier to encapsulate in one permeable space.
2016 Best of Design Award in Building Renovation: The Strand American Conservatory Theater
Architect: Skidmore, Owings & Merrill Location: San Francisco, CA
The Strand renovation provides a highly visible experimental performance space for the American Conservatory Theater within a formerly abandoned hundred-year-old movie theater on San Francisco’s Market Street. The space houses an intimate 285-seat proscenium theater, a public lobby and cafe, educational facilities, and a 120-seat black box theater and rehearsal space.
Care was taken to sensitively retrofit the shell of the former 725-seat cinema: The facade and structural supports were restored and essential modern theater elements were layered over the raw backdrop of the original building. Playing off of the building’s cinematic roots, the centerpiece of the lobby is a suspended two-story, 504-square-foot translucent LED scrim—the first permanent indoor usage of this technology.
Development and Project Manager, Financing Consultant Equity Community BuildersGeneral Contractor Plant Construction Company LED Panel Winvision Concrete Specialist Bay Area Concrete Historical Architects Page & Turnbull
Honorable Mention, Building Renovation: PLICO at the Flatiron
Architect: Elliott + Associates Architects Location: Oklahoma City, OK
This project includes the renovation of a two-level 1924 flatiron building and the construction of a modern, yet complementary rooftop addition that relates in shape, scale, color, and detailing while differentiating itself through materials and setbacks.
Honorable Mention, Building Renovation: Temple Israel of HollywoodArchitect: Koning Eizenberg Architecture Location: Los Angeles, CA
The light-filled design for this progressive reform congregation was inspired by a fringed Tallit (prayer shawl), while the ark is placed within a sedimentary wall that includes rocks gathered from Israel by its congregants.
The Berkeley Carroll School, Performing Arts Center—located on the northern ridge of Park Slope in Brooklyn—was once a church. Originally built in 1936, the structure has been transformed by New York firm 1100 Architect into a flexible theater and performance space.
The former 80-year-old church can now provide the pre-K Berkeley Carroll School with seating for 396 through a staggered seating arrangement that uses space freed up by the removal of the existing raised stage. Subsequently, the space can be reconfigured to serve as a lecture hall or venue for music, theater, events, and multi-media audio-visual performances.
After 1100 Architect responded to an RFP in 2014, construction began in March 2015. The center has now been open since September. "Both the faculty of the school and the student's parents are very impressed with the space that they now have," said associate principal Gwendolyn Conners, talking to The Architect's Newspaper.
Mechanical, Electrical, Plumbing Engineers: EME Group
Structural Engineering: Hage Engineering
Theater Consultants: Fisher Dachs Associates
Acoustical Consultants: Lally Acoustical consulting
Audio Visual Consultant: Boyce Nemec Designs
Code and Expediting Consultant: William Vitacco Associates Ltd.
General Contractor: Shawmut Design and Construction
Owners Representation: Seamus Henchy and Associates Inc.
Products and Vendors:
Acoustic panels at Ceiling: Fabric: Guilford of Maine Acoustic panel: Kinetics Noise Control HardSide
Acoustic panels at wall: Pani-Sorb modular Acoustical Wall Panels
Fixed seating: Seating: Steeldeck Tip Up Bench Seating Fabric: Knoll Hourglass
Loose seating: Chairs: Knoll Spark Chairs Fabric: Knoll Hourglass
Theatrical fixings Lighting: Barbizon Electric Theatrical Lighting boards: Barbizon Electric Rigging and Lighting Pipe Grid: I Weiss
Curtains: Fabricator: I Weiss Fabric: KM Fabrics, Seattle Fabrics Athletic Mesh
Flooring: Stage Flooring: Oil-Tempered Hardboard on Robbins Flooring BioChannel Linoleum Flooring: Forbo Carpet: J&J Flooring Group, Broken Slate, Modular
Paint: Benjamin Moore
Signage: ASI New York
In recent years, the world has seen a proliferation of performance centers that, according to a mysterious consensus, consist of more or less an identical combination: a 2,000-seat auditorium, a 1,500-seat theatre, and a black box. Overtly iconic external forms disguise conservative internal workings based on 19th century practice (and symbolism: balconies as evidence of social stratification). Although the essential elements of theatre- stage, proscenium, and auditorium- are more than 3,000 years old, there is no excuse for contemporary stagnation. TPAC takes the opposite approach: experimentation in the internal workings of the theatre, producing (without being conceived as such) the external presence of an icon.Construction on the project has so far taken four years and the Performing Arts Center is due to officially open in 2017. OMA won the commission to design the center in 2009. Rem Koolhaas and David Gianotten are the two partners working on the project.
A glimpse of a bright green form caught my eye as I missed the driveway of the Ragdale Foundation estate north of Chicago. A red Ferrari was close behind my rental car, and I couldn’t slow down in time to make the turn. The 50-acre Ragdale estate is situated in the wooded Lake Forest community, home to some of Chicago’s wealthiest families. The green apparition I spotted was this year’s Ragdale Ring.
The Ragdale Ring is a temporary open-air theater designed each year by winners of the foundation’s Adrian Smith Prize. This year’s iteration, designed by Syracuse-based SPORTS, is entitled Rounds. Fittingly, the installation is an undulating arching ribbon creating a perfect 70-foot diameter circle in plan. Nestled in a clearing in the forested front of the estate, the piece ties into its surroundings with curving archways. The arches rise to different heights, forming varied elevated seating areas, passages to the center, and one large space designated for a stage. Each arch responds to different conditions around the site, such as the main house, the residency building, or an entry path. The mint green color is vibrant, yet complementary to its verdant surroundings.
Thanks to engineering assistance from Arup, the piece is constructed out of waffled framed plywood and stands with no visible support. Landscape architects Rosborough Partners prepared the site with subtle rises where the ribbon hits the ground—combined with a meticulous paint job, it is hard to understand exactly how the ring was built, even when standing close. The result is the appearance that the entire ring was brought as one piece, maybe dropped on the site by some playful aliens.
SPORTS is a design collaboration between architects Greg Corso and Molly Hunker, faculty members at the Syracuse School of Architecture. Corso, Hunker, and a small team lived at Ragdale for three weeks in order to construct Rounds. The Adrian Smith Prize provides a $15,000 production grant and Ragdale provides room and board for the entire team, who also takes part in communal dinners and has access to the property’s forest and prairies.
The Ragdale property was originally the country home of Chicago architect Howard Van Doren Shaw. Shaw was also the designer of the original Ragdale Ring in 1912. That first open air theater was specifically designed for his playwright wife. This year’s ring is the fourth since Ragdale initiated a program to reimagine the original in 2013. Now an international competition, it calls for designs that “explore intersections of architecture, sculpture, landscape, design, public art, and performance disciplines.”
Ragdale is not normally open to the public. The property is kept private to provide space for its nearly 200 annual residents to work without interruption. Fortunately, the public can experience Rounds in person—tickets are available to the public for a small number of performances throughout the late summer. The next of these will be a jazz concert August 18. What better way to finish a picturesque drive through Chicago’s mansion-filled north suburbs, than with a jazz concert in an uncannily mint green theater?