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Center for the Performing Arts in Scottsdale, Arizona by John Douglas Architects
December 13th, 2013 by Sanjay Gangal
Article source: John Douglas Architects
This 1975 performing arts center was one of the most notable projects designed by the late Arizona architect Bennie Gonzales, FAIA, who also designed Scottsdale’s signature municipal structures, including the city hall and main library, which are linked to the arts center by the park-like Scottsdale Civic Center. Gonzales was known for his simple, pure forms that echoed both classic Southwestern and Native-American architectural themes. Gonzales designed the 100,000-square-foot arts center to include a large main theater, a smaller, secondary theater, gallery space, offices and a vast central atrium.
During the course of the years, the arts center became a beloved venue in the city, hosting numerous performances, events, art shows and more. The theaters, the atrium and the galleries were tweaked to meet changing audience and city needs. Several years ago, however, it became apparent that the center was in need of a major renovation. It was time to bring everything up to current codes and standards, both from a technical, performance side as well as the patron side.
The project started in 2005 with a master plan, and shortly thereafter embarked on the renovation of the restrooms as a kind of test project to showcase materials, forms and ideas for the balance of the center’s work.
The restrooms were brought up to current codes, by adding more stalls and ADA-compliant fixtures in spaces highlighted by glass-tile walls, custom terrazzo flooring and illuminated translucent resin panels that are programmed to shift colors.
In 2008, the most ambitious aspect of the project began, the renovation of the 838-seat main theater and the atrium.
The main theater was gutted and its main floor jack-hammered down to 40 feet below grade as part of the plan to improve sightlines, acoustics, reduce HVAC noise and provide ADA-compliant seating and access. New lighting, backstage improvements and a new control booth were also added.
In lieu of the theater’s original single entrance from the atrium and a central aisle, the reconfigured seating includes two entrances and two aisles, with the theater entrance marked by backlit, cast-glass panels. Inside the theater, ADA seating was located at the back of the theater near the entrances as well as closer to the stage, with that lower-level seating accessed by new glass elevators. “I think that patrons using the ADA seating should have just as wonderful an entry experience as everyone else,” said the architect.
Against a backdrop of deep-blue walls, Gonzales’ original geometric design was conjured by using rectangular and circular forms for the theater’s interior. Some walls and balconies were clad in cherry-stained maple paneling and a series of wooden panels were designed to mask technical equipment near the theater’s ceiling line. The pattern on the panels was inspired by a Louise Nevelson sculpture, located on the grounds. Theater seats, tested for comfort, were upholstered in a warm, rust-hued fabric, while the flooring was left in its simple concrete form for acoustic purposes. Backlit resin panels mark the aisle numbers, while powder-coated railings help patrons navigate the steps to their seats.
For the atrium, the west entrance, closest to the parking garage was enlarged making it more visible. Space for a new café was carved out of a multi-purpose room near the atrium’s north entrance. To create more meeting space, a mezzanine was added for the western side of the open, two-story-high atrium. Accessible by staircase and elevator, the mezzanine has a large conference room that can be closed off from the adjacent balcony by a series of sliding glass panels.
The atrium’s cracked concrete flooring was replaced with large slabs of grey-blue limestone, and a central carpet was designed with a pattern inspired by 1970s-era graphics. The illuminated glass panels around the theater’s entry doors also serve to create a backdrop for the atrium, which is frequently used for receptions and other events. As a finishing touch, an illuminated glass sculpture was commissioned by Scottsdale Public Art.
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