Author Archives for Rachel Maddock

PAI Insight: Incorporating Theatres into New Developments

Designing and renovating theatres has been a focus of Proscenium since 1996 when our firm started. In recent years, we have been approached by multiple clients who want to design theatres that are incorporated into new developments. Often this results in having a theatre on ground level (at grade) with a residential or mixed-use building attached.

When handled correctly we think this is a great idea because it makes theatres more feasible for developers who seek to maximize FSR in busy urban neighborhoods, while also creating dedicated community spaces for artists to make and show their work. The end result is a win-win situation for development the artistic community and the community at large.

But there are certain challenges with this arrangement with regards to acoustics, clear span structural spaces required for theatres, circulation, access and the geometry of the actual theatre space. Here are some ways we used our knowledge of theatre design to navigate these in a recent project.

Photos by Andrew Latreille

THE BMO THEATRE CENTRE

For the BMO Theatre Centre (2018), Proscenium was hired to do a complete fit-out of an existing base building that is part of a residential development in Olympic Village. The space originally meant for the Playhouse Theatre Company was redesigned for two of Vancouver’s popular theatre companies, Arts Club Theatre Company and Bard on the Beach. The program included a 250-seat theatre, rehearsal halls, costume shops and offices.

The design has been a success, in particular the infill of an existing double height space to facilitate a VIP balcony in the lobby and a perimeter catwalk for the theatre. The sleek, contemporary look and multi-dimensionality of the lobby has made it a prized event space, facilitating pre-show gatherings including space for live music and a wine bar.

Versatile 250-seat theatre

ACOUSTICS

For the best acoustics, ideally a theatre is isolated architecturally from neighbouring uses and does not have anything above it. At the minimum, this means none of the base building elements cross over into the performance space and at the most effective, it is a stand-alone structure. The BMO achieved this by making the theatre the podium beside the tower, with the theatre offices acting as the podium beneath the tower.

The mechanical systems were another important consideration. At the BMO, we adjusted the design to move rainwater leders out of the theatre and increase mechanical units and duct sizes to slow the movement of air, thus decreasing the noise of air and water movement in the theatre space. A complete acoustic isolation of the theatre from any base building mechanical and plumbing systems was required.

The original Playhouse design did not allow for rehearsal rooms but they were needed by Bard and the Arts Club. This meant that under the base tower, the structural isolation for these future spaces was not originally considered. To acoustically separate the rehearsal rooms from the offices above, we created physical separation by building a secondary concrete slab between floors involving a series of slab-spring isolators to keep them apart. (We worked with Aercoustics on this design).

Slab-spring isolators going in

OTHER CONSIDERATIONS

Theatres are unique buildings and require special treatment in many areas. Developers should know that if a sprung floor is required for a black-box theatre, it will require a depression in the concrete slab floor and developers should find out in advance.

The importance of back-of-house spaces are often overlooked, but it is essential to include practical rooms such as wardrobe storage space and shop space for theatre companies to use. At the BMO we included both.

A GROWING TREND

After twenty-five years in theatre design, our firm is glad to be designing new performance spaces in areas of high density. We are also branching out to design the base building for developers. In 2022, we are already working on two new theatre projects incorporated into new developments, one of which has us involved in both aspects.

We look forward to sharing more about these projects!

 

Designing Ballet BC’s New Home

We are excited to be working with Ballet BC with the design of their future home on Granville Island! Our team is currently working with the dance company to renovate the space at 1286 Cartwright St, formerly occupied by Arts Umbrella. The project includes new administration and dance rehearsal spaces.

Over the holidays the company announced the news:

Following more than a decade at Scotiabank Dance Centre where the company trained and rehearsed, Ballet BC looks forward to contributing to Vancouver’s premier artistic and cultural hub and joining an incredible community of neighbours on Granville Island. “We are delighted to have succeeded in securing this much needed space for Ballet BC,’ says Medhi Walerski, Ballet BC Artistic Director. “It’s a transformative milestone for our company and the evolution of its vision and artistic goals.”

 

Happy Holidays from PAI!

Wishing you a restful and joyful holiday season, from all of us here at Proscenium.

Our office will be closed from noon on December 24th to Tuesday, January 4th. See you in the New Year!

 

Fundraiser for Urban Native Youth Association

We are excited to announce our GoFundMe campaign this holiday season to support UNYA (Urban Native Youth Association), a charity working to support and empower Indigenous youth in East Vancouver.

 

More information about Urban Native Youth Association:

Urban Native Youth Association delivers over twenty culturally responsive, prevention focused programs to urban Indigenous youth in Metro Vancouver. Our youth-led approach helps Indigenous youth explore their personal goals, for education, work, culture, and life, in a fun, safe, and healthy environment that supports them to excel.

Youth are active at all levels of the organization, as participants, peer leaders, employees, and board members.

 

Supporting Carnegie Community Centre & The Gathering Place

Over the years, Proscenium has held donation drives to support two exceptional organizations we have worked on in the past, Carnegie Community Centre and The Gathering Place in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. This year, we are excited to be collecting physical items from our staff to bundle together and drop off to benefit their programs!

A little bit of history:

CARNEGIE COMMUNITY CENTRE

Carnegie Centre is a Class A Heritage Building built in 1903 as the Carnegie Library. Today, Carnegie Community Centre — often referred to as the living room of the Downtown Eastside — provides social, educational, cultural, and recreational activities on-site and nearby at Oppenheimer Park. The programs serve low income adults with the goal of nurturing mind, body, and spirit in a safe and welcoming environment.

Proscenium worked with the City of Vancouver in 2010 to design upgrades to this important heritage building on Hastings and Main Street. The renovation included upgrading windows, skylights and the central spiral staircase, including adding a stainless steel handrail for improved patron safety and security. We also restored historic material on the interior of the building, including marble stair treads, cast iron stair structure, ceramic floors and wall tile. The exterior got a clean and repainting of concrete and stonework and relaying of granite entry stairs.

 

THE GATHERING PLACE

The Gathering Place Community Centre offers programs and services to the Downtown South community. They primarily serve vulnerable populations, including people on lower income, people with disabilities, seniors, people of diverse ethnic backgrounds, the LGBTQ community, youth, and people who are homeless.

PAI worked with the City of Vancouver in 2012 to update the existing community building, including accessible redesigns of high-traffic entry reception areas on both the lower and main levels. Space planning and finishes were also provided for the main programming rooms and washrooms. Contemporary elements helped to refresh the design, including new exterior signage on the corner of Helmcken and Smithe Street for increased visibility and a feature stair made of perforated Baltic Ply wood panel. The organization’s blue branding colour was used throughout to enliven and energize the space for community patrons.

Find out more or support these great local organizations here!