Writers Theatre

Photo: Steve Hall © Hedrich Blessing

Location
Glencoe, IL

Status
Built 2016

Client
Writers Theatre

Type
Cultural

Size
36,000 sf

Sustainability
LEED Gold Certified

Tags

Theater’s ability to bring people together across boundaries has made it an important force in urban life since ancient times.

Studio Gang’s design for Glencoe’s Writers Theatre is intended to maximize this potential for a twenty-first-century theater company, creating an architecture that energizes the daily life of its community and becomes an exciting, region-wide cultural destination.

Organized as a village-like cluster of distinct volumes that surround a central hub, the building’s form resonates with the character of Glencoe’s downtown. The theater’s two performance spaces—a main stage and a smaller black box venue—employ innovative staging and seating configurations to maximize the sense of intimacy between actors and audience and to enhance the immersive experience of Writers’ productions.

Both of these performance venues, in addition to rehearsal space and public zones, open onto the central gathering space of the lobby. Structured by great timber trusses with a lighter wood lattice supporting its second-floor canopy walk, the lobby is designed to accommodate multiple uses including informal performances, talks, and community events.

The building engages its context through transparent visual connections and ivy-covered backdrops to the surrounding parks. In fair weather the lobby can open to the adjacent Women’s Library Club Park, allowing the energy and interaction generated within the theater to extend outward into the community beyond. At night, the theater glows from within, drawing interest and activity to this important civic and cultural anchor.

Level 1 Floor Plan

The soaring lobby offers a space for theater-goers and the public alike to gather. It can host a range of events, from talks to informal performances. Photo: Steve Hall © Hedrich Blessing.

Photo: Steve Hall © Hedrich Blessing

Tribune stairs double as concessions. Photo: Steve Hall © Hedrich Blessing.

In fair weather the lobby can open to the adjacent park, allowing the energy and interaction generated within the theater to extend outward into the community beyond. Photo: Steve Hall © Hedrich Blessing.

Referencing Glencoe’s many Tudor-style buildings, the design recalls the inn-yard theaters of the early modern period of English drama, which brought together all social classes with the power of live performance.

The second-floor canopy walk is structured by great timber trusses with a lighter wood lattice hung in tension. Photo: Steve Hall © Hedrich Blessing.

The theater’s two performance spaces—a 250-seat main stage and 99-seat black box space—maximize the sense of intimacy between actors and audience, enhancing the immersive experience of Writers’ productions. Photo: Steve Hall © Hedrich Blessing.

Photo: Steve Hall © Hedrich Blessing

Video by Spirit of Space

Consultant Team

AMS Planning and Research, project advisor

Auerbach Pollock Friedlander, theater consultant

Coen + Partners, landscape architect

dbHMS, MEP/FP

Halvorson and Partners, structural engineering

Lightswitch, lighting

Peter Heppel Associates, engineering specialist

SPACECO, Inc., civil engineering

Threshold Acoustics, acoustics consultant

Trillium Dell Timberworks, timber specialist

Venue, cost consultant

WMA Consulting Engineers, sustainability consultant

W.E. O’Neil, general contractor

Awards

Merit Award Recipient, Illumination Awards (Lightswitch), 2017

Finalist, The Plan Awards, Culture, 2017

Jury and Popular Choice Winner, Architizer A+ Awards, 2017

WoodWorks Wood Design Awards, 2017

Shortlist, Cultural Spaces Category, World Architecture Festival, 2016

Institute Honor Award, Interior Architecture, American Institute of Architects, 2016

Honor Award, Divine Detail, Design Excellence Awards, AIA Chicago, 2016

Honor Award, Interior Architecture, Design Excellence Awards, AIA Chicago, 2016

Citation of Merit, Distinguished Building, Design Excellence Awards, AIA Chicago, 2016

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