Sanjay Gangal is the President of IBSystems, the parent company of AECCafe.com, MCADCafe, EDACafe.Com, GISCafe.Com, and ShareCG.Com.
Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts in Beverly Hills, California by SPF:architects
October 14th, 2014 by Sanjay Gangal
Article source: SPF:architects
The program for the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts [the Wallis] was to transform the Historic Post Office Site into a cultural center for the performing arts including, the 500 seat Goldsmith Theatre, the 120 seat Lovelace Studio Theatre, an education wing, administrative offices, café, gift shop, sculpture garden, education court and a state of the art performing arts support spaces.
Conventional wisdom had the main programmatic element [500 seat theatre] inserted into the original mail workroom of the historic post office and adding a wing to house all the other pertinent programmatic elements. We thought of a new way. It was our contention to re-utilize the historic post office without major alterations by inserting the ancillary programmatic elements within it and building an annex to house the new 500 seat Goldsmith Theatre. This resulted in a better use of space and a better site utilization. Furthermore, it required fewer modifications to the historic aspects of the original historic post office. This concept enabled us to fully restore the major elements of the post office’s historic fabric utilizing the Secretary of Interior Standards while maintaining eligibility and historic tax credit status.
Work that was performed included, re-roofing [re-using existing tiles, re-furbishing all brickwork, repairing all terra cotta elements, re-finishing historic ironwork and restoring the eight historic murals.
Conditions and Challenges
In general the original post office was in good shape but the challenge was to re-think the site, its access points, how patrons would interact, how the actors would move through the facility, how loading worked and how to maintain security while keeping the facility open to the public. It must be noted that a post office is a different building type than a performing arts center and that posed challenges in of itself. Furthermore, changes in codes and life safety requirements became paramount design issues that dictated new elements often in conflict with Secretary of Interior Standards Guidelines. Of course, a balance was struck that we feel enriches the project. The actual entitlement process- although long- which included the addition of a 450 car garage underneath Crescent Drive between the Center and City Hall was relatively smooth and we found overwhelming support for the project.
The Wallis enhances historic preservation by the full restoration and re-purposing of a period structure and site for public benefit. Originally, the post office benefited the public by providing a dignified environment for the dissemination of information via the USPS. Today, that very same site and building disseminate our cultural aspirations via the Performing Arts. Not only was the original building fully restored but the site was re-imagined to provide for public outdoor spaces and connection to the civic life of the city and its business life- the project actually seeks to link these elements by being right in the middle of it. The project also reaches out to the not so privileged community via its educational programs and special performances for children who never actually experienced a live dramatic performance. It is as if the culture fairy sprinkled her magic dust right in the middle of Beverly Hills!