Our Story – Celebrating 25 years of Proscenium

It is with pride that we recognize 25 years of Proscenium Architecture + Interiors Inc! What started in 1996 as a small architecture and interior design firm specializing in theatre design has grown to a mid-sized firm in 2022 working across many project types.

We want to take this opportunity to reflect on where we came from and where we are going.

Team members Alex, Ben, Hugh and Sandi, 2021

A LITTLE BIT OF HISTORY

Since 1996, Proscenium has been involved in studies, renovations and the construction of arts and cultural spaces.

Thom Weeks and Jennifer Stanley, co-founders of Proscenium and now retired, were experts in theatre design. Working with them for over twenty years, our current Principals Hugh Cochlin and Kori Chan learned the ropes of the complex building typology that is a theatre—where every detail ranging from acoustics to the number of bathrooms affects its success.

Co-founders Thom Weeks and Jennifer Stanley

Original Proscenium team in the office at West 7th Ave, 1997

In the last twenty-five years, Proscenium has worked on dozens of theatres and entertainment venues in the Lower Mainland and beyond. Working in such a niche typology has led us to exciting and rewarding places, from the large-scale renovation of the Queen Elizabeth Theatre (during which the ceiling was removed completely) to shaping the intimate room of the 75-seat Culture Lab at the Cultch. We developed a strong methodology for arts projects that includes comprehensive building assessments, studies, and phased renovations that work around an organization’s performance season.

Our understanding of performing arts spaces allowed us to approach unique institutional projects such as SFU Goldcorp Centre for the Arts—a post-secondary facility that includes a 400-seat black box theatre. Since many Vancouver theatres are heritage buildings, our team developed a deep understanding of heritage design, leading to other high-profile cultural projects like Christ Church Cathedral and bell tower renovation. In advance of the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Games, Proscenium led upgrades for three major City-owned heritage performance venues—the Queen Elizabeth Theatre, The Vancouver East Cultural Centre and the Orpheum Theatre.

Fei & Milton Wong Experimental Theatre, SFU Goldcorp Centre

Queen Elizabeth Theatre, 2010

EXPANDING THE FOCUS

In the mid-2000’s, Proscenium’s focus expanded as the firm grew and took on diverse projects, including post-secondary, office, heritage, mixed-use and multi-family residential buildings. Working with sustainability-minded clients such as the David Suzuki Foundation and MEC gave our team the opportunity to develop high-performance solutions and a passion for innovative sustainable design.

As Proscenium’s portfolio diversified, an approach formed through years of working with arts groups continued to govern our work—including a strong aptitude for working with multiple stakeholders and process-driven design sensibility. Working with commercial clients created opportunities to infuse new types of projects with our values and find synergies between building types on mixed-use projects. Maximizing the positive impact of great design on user health, whether it be for office workers, students or residential tenants, continues to motivate and inspire our team.

MEC Head Office, 2014

COMMUNITY & CULTURE

Establishing community has remained one of our key values. We try to foster the kind of culture where individuals bring their unique interests to the table to enrich the PAI team. We have annual ski and lawn bowling staff days, staff get to take their birthday off, and we close the office between Christmas and New Years.

From the outset, Proscenium made the conscious choice to incorporate social responsibility into our office culture. We function as a co-op, sharing kitchen, cleaning, recycling and composting duties. Many of our staff walk or bike to work and we reimburse those who take public transit.

We actively support local businesses and local initiatives that align with our values, including charity organizations like WISH Drop-in Centre, Working Gear and UNYA (Urban Native Youth Association) through donations and food-drives each year.

WHERE WE ARE GOING

In 2020, Proscenium moved to the new PAI-designed office on the third floor of the mass timber MEC Vancouver Store in Mount Pleasant. We are glad to work in a high-performance building with lots of green features including rainwater collection and re-use, and have our surroundings reflect the firm’s commitment to sustainability. In the large daylit, open-plan studio, our team has been expanding over the last two years.

PAI Office on West 2nd Ave

Though our portfolio now includes all types of projects, Proscenium continues to honour its roots by working with arts and cultural groups—large and small—on studies, built theatres and other cultural/entertainment spaces.

We are excited to see what the future holds for Proscenium, including how innovations in green technology and materials will help us find more materially efficient ways to do what we do.