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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.”

 

PAI Highlight: 1235 Marine Drive

We are pleased to be moving forward in the design phase with our project at 1235 Marine Drive in North Vancouver!

 

This Mixed-Use project on the vibrant Marine Drive corridor consists of one floor of Commercial Retail and three stories of market residential condos ranging from one to two bedrooms.

Some great design features include:

  • A widened pedestrian sidewalk and added seating to encourage street use
  • Residential floors overhanging the commercial units for natural weather protection
  • Materials that reference the area’s shipbuilding past including wood, metal and brick in a contemporary interpretation
  • Red metal frames to provide a bold accent and reflect the high energy of the busy thoroughfare through North Van

 

 

These new renderings represent the latest refinements to the design in order to address DP requirements. We are getting ready to resubmit an updated DP package and are looking forward to the next design phase on this project!

 

Photographing our New Office

We decided to wait until most of the team was back in office before taking some pictures to show off the space! Thanks to Kori for his photography skills and the Interiors team for their help.

Our office is located on the third floor of the MEC Vancouver building (have you heard about its new award?). A bonus of designing this building was envisioning a new office for the Proscenium team, which had long outgrown its old spot on West 7th.

Not only do we enjoy being in a bright and open studio, it feels good to work every day in a green high-efficiency building that aligns with our firm’s sustainability goals.

The office includes an open-plan studio, two boardrooms, a reception area and kitchen.

We can’t wait until we can throw a party and celebrate it with all of you, PAI style! Until then…

MEC Vancouver wins the BC Wood Design Award 2020

On July 14th, WoodWORKS! BC announced MEC Vancouver is the winner of the BC Wood Design Awards (2020) for Commercial buildings! We are so glad to receive this award and thank you to our great project team for all their hard work on this inspiring, sustainable project.

IN THE NEWS:

Canadian Architect

Journal of Commerce

The building has also been spotlighted a Case Study publication put our by WoodWORKS! BC , which dives into the design and structural elements of the project.

Read the case study.