2 0 21 DESIGN AWA RDS ISSUE
THE PLACE OF THEATRE Theatre Ideas Shaping Spaces Scenic Minds
Steel reduces waste and features a material recovery rate greater than 98%! Structural steel features an incredibly sustainable manufacturing process. Consider these facts: The structural steel making process boasts a 95% water recycling rate with no external discharges, resulting in a net consumption of only 70 gallons per ton. Steel is the most recycled material in the world. Domestic mills recycle more than 70 million tons of scrap each year and structural steel has a 93% recycled content! Steel production productivity levels are up by a factor of 24 and labor hours have been reduced from 12 to just 0.5 per ton. Steel’s carbon footprint is down 37%, energy use has decreased 32%, and greenhouse gas emissions have dropped by 45%.
Steel is the most resilient material, designed to last, whether it’s exposed to fire, blast, or the ravages of time. And when a steel building reaches the end of its life, the steel is recycled and retains all of its fantastic physical characteristics. Today’s beams and columns are nearly 40% stronger and offer greater constructability benefits!
The American Institute of Steel Construction provides environmental product declarations (EPDs) for fabricated hot-rolled structural sections, fabricated steel plate and fabricated hollow structural sections. These EPDs cover the product life cycle from cradle to fabricator gate and are available at aisc.org/epd.
Are you Earth-friendly? aisc.org/earthfriendly
Smarter. Stronger. Steel. American Institute of Steel Construction 312.670.2400 | www.aisc.org
IN THIS ISSUE, we explore the physical place of theatre and the place of theatre within regional culture.
12 Big Ideas & Little Theatres by Dorothy Chansky and Timothy Kerner
7 EDITORS’ LETTER 8 COMMUNITY 26 OPINION 28 EXPRESSION 30 DESIGN PROFILES 16 Shaping the Space of Regional Theatre by James F. Schlatter
ON THE COVER Brandon J. Pierce, Anthony Martinez-Briggs, and Lindsay Smiling in the Wilma Theater’s production of James Ijames’s Kill Move Paradise with set and lighting design by Matt Saunders and Thom Weaver.
20 Scenic Design, Performance, and Perception by Timothy Kerner
PHOTO BY MATT SAUNDERS
CONTEXT is published by
A Chapter of the American Institute of Architects 1218 Arch Street, Philadelphia, PA 19107 215-569-3186, www.aiaphiladelphia.com. The opinions expressed in this – or the representations made by advertisers, including copyrights and warranties, are not those of the editorial staff, publisher, AIA Philadelphia,
41 2021 AIA Design Awards
or AIA Philadelphia’s Board of Directors. All rights reserved. Reproduction in part or whole without written permission is strictly prohibited. Postmaster: send change of address to AIA Philadelphia, 1218 Arch Street, Philadelphia, PA 19107 Published DECEMBER 2021
Correction: After a one year pause in publication, the summer 2021 issue of CONTEXT magazine published the chapter awards from six months prior. Those awards should have been identified as the 2020 awards rather than the 2021 awards, which are in this issue. Suggestions? Comments? Questions? Tell us what you think about the latest issue of CONTEXT magazine by emailing email@example.com. A member of the CONTEXT editorial committee will be sure to get back to you.
AIA Philadelphia | context | WINTER 2022 1
Since 1996 Parallel Edge has focused on providing Outsourced IT support for AEC firms and other companies specifically working with the built environment. Outsourced IT Services when IT is not what you do. 610.293.0101 www.paralleledge.com
2 WINTER 2022 | context | AIA Philadelphia
Inspect to Protect
SaveandProtect.org 866-226-6006 AMC Fire Proteccon • ARORA Engineers • Capitol Fire Proteccon • Elite Fire Proteccon Johnson Controls • Oliver Fire Proteccon and Security • Oneida Fire Proteccon • Independence Fire Proteccon Patriot Fire Proteccon • S.A. Comunale • Wayman Fire Proteccon • Wingate Fire Proteccon
Rediscover the Many Benefits of Concrete Block.
Single Wythe Concrete Masonry is not only innovative, it’s also fire safe, affordable and beautiful. Visit our online Design Resource Center for the very latest in masonry design information - videos, BIM resources, design notes, and CAD and Revit® tools. YOUR LOCAL CONCRETE PRODUCTS GROUP PRODUCER:
AIA Philadelphia | context | WINTER 2022 3
2021 BOARD OF DIRECTORS Soha St. Juste, AIA, President Jeff Goldstein, FAIA, President Elect Robert Shuman, AIA, LEED AP, Treasurer Paul Avazier, AIA, LEED AP BD+C, NCARB, Past President Rich Vilabrera, Jr., Assoc. AIA, Secretary Brian Smiley, AIA, CDT, LEED BD+C, Director of Sustainability + Preservation Phil Burkett, AIA, WELL AP, LEED AP NCARB, Director of Firm Culture + Prosperity Stephen Kuttner Potts, AIA, Director of Technology + Innovation Erin Roark, AIA, LEED AP, Director of Equity, Diversity + Inclusion Fátima Olivieri - Martínez, AIA, Director of Design Kevin Malawski, AIA, LEED AP, Director of Advocacy Rob Fleming, AIA, LEED AP BD+C, Director of Education Timothy A. Kerner, AIA, LEED AP, Director of Professional Development Danielle DiLeo Kim, AIA, Director of Strategic Engagement Michael Johns, FAIA, NOMA, LEED AP, Director of Equitable Communities Clarissa Kelsey, AIA, At-Large Director
Creating flexible spaces that inspire people as they live, learn, work, heal, and explore akfgroup.com Arch Resources Bobrick_NOVA 4/13/2021 10:58 AM Page 1
Sophia Lee, AIA, NOMA, LEED AP B+C, At-Large Director Scott Compton, AIA, NCARB, LEED AP, AIA PA Representative Mike Penzel, Assoc. AIA, Director of Philadelphia Emerging Architects Ross Silverman, Assoc. AIA, LEED Green Associate, SEED, Director of Philadelphia Emerging Architects Tya Winn, NOMA, LEED Green Associate, SEED, Public Member Rebecca Johnson, Executive Director
ARCH RESOURCES, LLC.
CONTEXT EDITORIAL BOARD CO-CHAIRS Harris M. Steinberg, FAIA, Drexel University Todd Woodward, AIA, SMP Architects
BOARD MEMBERS David Brownlee, Ph.D., University of Pennsylvania Julie Bush, ASLA, Ground Reconsidered Daryn Edwards, AIA, CICADA Architecture Planning Clifton Fordham, RA, Temple University Fauzia Sadiq Garcia, RA, Temple University
Peter Martindell, CSI Architectural Representative 29 Mainland Rd • Harleysville, PA 19438 Phone: 267-500-2142 Fax: 215-256-6591 firstname.lastname@example.org https://archres-inc.com Washroom Equipment Since 1908
Sally Harrison, AIA, Temple University Timothy Kerner, AIA, Terra Studio Elizabeth Miller Jeff Pastva, AIA Eli Storch, AIA, Looney Ricks Kiss Franca Trubiano, PhD, University of Pennsylvania David Zaiser, AIA, HDR
STAFF Rebecca Johnson, AIA Philadelphia Executive Director Elizabeth Paul, Managing Editor Jody Canford, Advertising Manager, email@example.com Anne Bigler, annebiglerdesign.com, Graphic Design Consultant Laurie Churchman, Designlore, Art Director
4 WINTER 2022 | context | AIA Philadelphia
design + performance.
Saugus Middle High School - Saugus, MA // HMFH Architects
Dri-Design Metal Wall Panels manufactures facades in a nearly endless combination of metals, colors, shapes, and textures, providing almost limitless design options. Regardless of which design you choose, performance is at the foundation of every panel with Dri-Design’s highly tested attachment and water management system. Please visit our website or give us a call to find out more.
• No sealants, gaskets or butyl tape means no streaking and no maintenance for owners. • Not laminated or a composite material, so panels will never delaminate. • At Dri-Design, we have a strict policy of recycling and creating products that the world can live with. • Fully tested to exceed ASTM standards and the latest AAMA 508-07. • Available in a variety of materials and colors. • Non-combustible and NFPA-285 compliant.
616.355.2970 | dri-design.com AIAAIA Philadelphia Philadelphia | context | context | WINTER | FALL 2022 2021 5
Tomochichi Federal Courthouse; Savannah, GA
Virginia Tech Innovation Campus; Blacksburg, VA
ACOUSTICS • AUDIOVISUAL • IT • SECURITY • THEATER SYSTEMS George Mason High School; Falls Church, VA
ARENEW; Washington, DC
www.polysonics.com 540.341.4988 Johns Hopkins Health Center Suburban Campus; Bethesda, MD 6 WINTER 2022 | context | AIA Philadelphia
DC Water Headquarters; Washington, DC
THINKING ABOUT THEATRE This issue took a while. We started thinking about it over two years ago…and then something happened. Not only did the pandemic shut down the entire Philadelphia theatre scene, it forced the closure of the Center for Architecture and Design, sent the Chapter’s
financial model into a tailspin, and brought CONTEXT to a halt. We are
TIMOTHY KERNER, AIA
hopefully putting that all behind us; the Chapter is financially healthy,
Principal of Terra Studio and CONTEXT Editor
CONTEXT is as strong as ever and the theatres are in the process of reopening.
JAMES F. SCHLATTER
Member of the Theatre Arts Program faculty, University of Pennsylvania, Retired
There is a dual meaning in the theme of this issue. The articles investigate the physical place of our local theatres and the place of theatre in our regional culture. We begin with a look into the early twentieth century Little Theatre Movement, which set the stage for artistic theatre as we know it. The second feature considers three regional theatres and the point in their history when they made the daring leap from small, found spaces to larger purpose-built structures. We then take an inward view towards the work of three talented scenic designers and the creative role that links the contradictions of performance space and physical space. The Expression and Opinion pieces are heartfelt and illuminating statements of the moment from the artistic directors of two vibrant theatre companies. The Design Profiles illustrate four exciting examples of recently designed performance spaces. And then there are the many Awards – our own annual display of thrilling architectural performance. We hope you enjoy this review of several of our many theatres and the role they play in the cultural landscape. One thing that is quite evident is the enormous amount of creative energy and sheer audacity that goes into every theatrical production. At this critical time in the history of our region’s theatre companies, we hope you will pay tribute to their dedication and relentless spirit by engaging in our diverse theatrical scene. You will not regret it.
Woodcut print of the Hedgerow Theatre by Wharton Esherick, 1929, courtesy of the Wharton Esherick Museum.
AIA Philadelphia | context | WINTER 2022 7
Hello Friends and Colleagues, Welcome to 2022! It was wonderful to see many of you in person this past fall at the DesignPhiladelphia Kickoff Party, the Community Design Collaborative’s Archtober/DesignPhlly Hybrid event, the Kahn Lecture, and the Design Awards. As we continue to expand our hybrid event capabilities, I hope to continue to see more and more of you both online and in person. This issue of CONTEXT focuses on theatres – which feels like a breath of fresh air. Throughout the past two years, art – even online – was critical to our emotional and physical health. Theatres are special places that we missed during the pandemic and its lovely to celebrate these projects and feature articles into the highly specialized and technical designs of performance art places and spaces. Thank you to our editor Tim Kerner, for his vision and dedication to CONTEXT Magazine, whether he is editing or not. In addition, the winter issue of CONTEXT always includes our recent Design Awards project winners. We had a slightly smaller number of submissions this year (down about 16%) hence the smaller number of awards – but our Detroit-based jury was nonetheless very impressed with the quality of projects. Congratulations again to all of our winners.
Looking forward to the rest of 2022 – we will be launching new websites with an online community. The community aspect of the website will enable committees to be able to host interactive conversations on their online discussion board, post events and easily communicate with anyone interested in their committee’s work. AIA Philadelphia has one of the most engaged memberships in the country – our committees produce incredible content and now it will be easier for us to share what they are doing with our members and larger audience. Keep an eye out for an invitation to join the new AIA Philadelphia website and online community! Take care,
Rebecca Johnson Executive Director AIA Philadelphia Center / Architecture + Design
2022 AIA Philadelphia Board Induction Join the Philadelphia architecture community for the first event of the new year and welcome the newly elected board of directors. Currently planned as an in-person event on January 13, 2022 from 5:30-7:30 PM at the Athenaeum of Philadelphia. To register, please visit aiaphiladelphia.org. Cost is free to attend. *Due to escalation of the latest COVID-19 variant, this event could change to virtual. Please keep an eye on the AIA Philadelphia website and weekly email newsletter for announcements and more
8 WINTER 2022 | context | AIA Philadelphia
PHOTO: JULIA BLAUKOPF
WELCOME 2022 AIA BOARD OF DIRECTORS Congratulations to the 2022 AIA Philadelphia Board of Directors. This year’s board election features two new members and a number of current Directors elected for a second term. If you are in-
terested in becoming a board member, reach out to any current board member or keep an eye on your inbox in late summer for the annual call for board nominations.
President – Jeff Goldstein, FAIA, Principal, DIGSAU President-Elect – Rob Fleming, AIA, LEED AP BD+C, Director of Education, Jefferson University Treasurer – Robert Shuman, AIA, LEED AP, MGA Partners and Associate Professor and Program Head of Architecture, Temple University Tyler School of Art and Architecture Secretary – Rich Vilabrera, Jr., Assoc. AIA, Job Captain, Interior Architects Past President – Soha St. Juste, AIA, Architectural Design Principal, Jacobs Director of Sustainability + Preservation – Brian Smiley, AIA, CDT, LEED BD+C, Senior Project Architect and Director of Sustainability, HOK Director of Firm Culture + Prosperity – Phil Burkett, AIA, WELL AP, LEED AP, NCARB, Principal, Meyer Design Director of Technology + Innovation – Eric Oskey, AIA, Technical Director, Moto DesignShop Director of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion – Erin Roark, AIA, LEED AP, Senior Associate, WRT Director of Advocacy – Kevin Malawski, AIA LEED AP, Founder and Principal, Karbon Architects
Director of Equitable Communities – Michael Johns, FAIA, NOMA, LEED AP, Principal, M Designs + MWJ Consulting, LLC
Director of Philadelphia Emerging Architects – Ross Silverman, Assoc. AIA, LEED Green Associate, Designer, WRT
Director of Education – Fauzia Sadiq Garcia, Principal, Sadiq Garcia Design
Director At-Large – Clarissa Kelsey, AIA, Associate, Stantec
Director of Design – Fátima Olivieri-Martinez, AIA, Principal, KieranTimberlake Director of Professional Development – Timothy Kerner, AIA, Principal, Terra Studio, LLC. Director of Strategic Engagement – Danielle DiLeo Kim, AIA, Executive Director, Philadelphia 250 Director of Philadelphia Emerging Architects – Michael Penzel, Assoc. AIA, Architectural Designer, BRR Architecture
Director At-Large – Sophia Lee, AIA, NOMA, LEED AP BD+C, Project Architect, Jacobs AIA PA Representative – Scott Compton, AIA, NCARB, LEED AP, Principal, Compton Associates Architectural Public Member – Tya Winn, NOMA, LEED Green Associate, SEED, Executive Director, Community Design Collaborative
AIA Philadelphia | context | WINTER 2022 9
This year for the Community Design Collaborative has marked a year of transitional growth, like many other organizations and businesses. It has defined the meaning of flexibility and resilience- forcing all to be introspective as they reckoned with what was going on in the world around them. This pandemic has been an operational and structural challenge, forcing us to reflect and consider our foundation, mission and how we can be most relevant and impactful to our communities with the resources available. The fact that this has all occurred while celebrating our 30th Anniversary is poetic.
LEVERAGE The 2021 Leverage awardee was our 20 founders. These 20 “anarchist architects” had a vision to make an impact on this world that is still relevant today. Embodying the idea of the Citizen Architect, each of them have continued to move forward these ideas whether they have stayed committed as leaders and supporters of the Collaborative, served in staff roles, or prioritized this ideology in their own practice and work.
DESIGN AWARDS When considering nominees for the two Collaborative sponsored Design Awards, our choices were simple. The Collaborative staff and board reflected on what had the biggest impact in the past year. The 2021 Paul Sehnert Award for Community Design was awarded to Design A.I.D. and the 2021 Alan Greenberger Award was awarded to Howard Lebold. More information on both honorees can be found in the Design Awards section of this magazine beginning on page 41. A surprise win for the Collaborative at the 2021 Design Awards was the Honor Award for Preservation Planning for the John Coltrane Museum and Cultural Arts Center Site Feasibility Study. Submitted by local firm and long-time Collaborative volunteer, Kelly Maiello, this Collaborative project was completed in 2021 for the Strawberry Mansion CDC, a nonprofit community development corporation working with the property owners to redevelop the site in honor of Coltrane’s legacy.
AEC CARES DAY
10 WINTER 2022 | context | AIA Philadelphia
PHOTO: DVS PHOTOGRAPHY
This annual service project sponsored by Construct Connect is a companion to the national AIA Conference & Expo. The Collaborative volunteer team led by Jeffrey Brummer and Howard Lebold with Sheila Hudson, Kathy Lent, and Morrie Zimmerman and supported on a build day by 75 volunteers from all over the country to implement the design. The team chose to work with the Sunday Breakfast Rescue mission, one of the largest shelters in the city, to transform the longterm resident floor of the building.
UNDERSTANDING THE “EQUITY LENS” Become an Agent of Change for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion. Register for the Culture Change Initiative AIA Philadelphia, with the guidance of clinical community psychologist Dr. Kumea Shorter-Gooden (pictured here), is offering a training institute for architects. From January 2022 through April 2022, a cohort of 22 members of Philadelphia’s architecture community will gather for workshops and training that will enhance your skills in identifying and addressing implicit biases and microaggressions, foster the development of an “equity lens”, and increase your facility in engaging in difficult conversations. Registrants should plan to commit to attending all 4.5-hour sessions (one per month) from January 2022 through April 2022. The initiative is $500 for Architects (licensed and nonlicensed) / $600 for Non-Members to attend and admittance is limited to 22 cohort members. Deadline to apply is December 31, 2021. Limited scholarships are available,
PHOTO: KUMEA SHORTER GOODEN
please indicate need on the form.
AIA Philadelphia | context | WINTER 2022 11
BY DOROTHY CHANSKY AND TIMOTHY KERNER
BIG IDEAS & LITTLE THEATRES Most of what Americans understand today about the worth and place of theatre in the national cultural landscape came into focus during the Little Theatre Movement between 1912 and 1929. Two built manifestations of this movement are the Plays and Players Theatre in Center City and the Hedgerow Theatre in Rose Valley, both of which, to some degree, continue to serve their original missions. Despite their shared intentions, the stories and surroundings of these two theatres provide a compelling study of contrasts.
12 WINTER 2022 | context | AIA Philadelphia
PHOTO: TIMOTHY KERNER
The Little Theatre Movement comprised a web of amateur and semi-professional theatrical activities that arose in opposition to the dominant commercialism of Broadway productions. Nineteenth-century railroad expansion had enabled New York producers to transport their stars and tours across the country, contributing to the demise of locally based, resident companies. The proponents of Little Theatre opposed these overly commercial spectacles and aspired towards theatre as a form of artistic expression and a means to improve American society. Little Theatre founders and participants — typically but not always accurately regarded as “bohemians” — included playwrights, professors, political activists, civic boosters, socialites, poets, actors, journalists, housewives, and students. The Progressive Era (18901920) that provided the soil in which they planted their seeds, saw an influx of immigrants from southern and eastern Europe and rapid economic expansion driven by heavy industrialization. Mass production, consumerism, and the newly arrived non-English speakers created a perfect storm of anxiety and opportunity. Little Theatre drew artistic inspiration from the best-known production models of the European Independent Theatre Movement and from the design aesthetics of Adolphe Appia, Edward Gordon Craig, and Max Reinhardt — pioneers known for treating space on both sides of the footlights as plastic. Theatrical experimentation was a defining element of the movements on both sides of the Atlantic. Playwrights whose work defined the Little Theatre Movement include Oscar Wilde, George Bernard Shaw, Frank Wedekind, and Eugene O’Neill. Well-known American Little Theatres include the Provincetown Players, the Washington Square Players, and the Chicago
Little Theatre. In 1915, sixty-three organizations called themselves Little Theatres and by 1926 a writer for Vanity claimed a total of 5,000.1 The Provincetown Players got their start in 1915, when a group of New York-based writers and activists assembled at their summer beach haunt on Cape Cod to present short, original plays. The group is perhaps best known for giving Eugene O’Neill his start as a produced playwright. The Washington Square Players (1914-1918) was also founded by a group of iconoclastic New Yorkers. The group’s mission was not the production of member-written plays, but rather the production of a variety of plays from many sources. The “Little” in “Little Theatre” referred not only to budgets, but also to the size of the venues, which were meant to bring audiences and actors in close proximity at a time when large theatres and extravagant scenery were the norm. Little Theatres ranged in size from seventy to three hundred seats, and the intimacy allowed a direct, visceral connection with the performance. In Philadelphia, the Movement got a jump start in 1913 when Beulah E. Jay, a native of Boston and sometime student of acting and opera, opened the doors of her Little Theatre. The year prior, she founded the Metropolitan Dramatic School at 15th and Chestnut and purchased three residential lots on the 1700 block of Delancey Street with her husband, Edward G. Jay, and her husband’s business partner, Frederick H. Shelton. Architect Amos Warren Barnes was hired to draw up the plans and
ditorium offers a contrast with the exterior to create an atmosphere of refined cultural expectation. The 238 seats on the gently raked floor and 86 more in the balcony provide excellent site lines. Paired columns adorn the walls, and a decorative cornice wraps the ornamented ceiling. On the walls between the columns are murals based on the myth of Dionysus and Ariadne, which were painted by Edith Emerson in 1918 and revealed to the public with grand fanfare. Beulah Jay’s mission was to produce “plays of ideas”2 and she initially produced and directed everything herself. The first season included works by Oscar Wilde, Henrik Ibsen and Bernard Shaw. Her approach The 1913 façade of was different from that of most Little the Little Theatre of Theatres in that she hired professional Philadelphia (now Plays actors. As she stated in a 1913 interview
and Players) with its band of terra cotta dancers below. The theatre interior with murals by Edith Emerson to the left.
PHOTO: JEFFERY TOTARO
F. A. Havens and Company was awarded the construction contract. Barnes was a versatile engineer/architect who had previously designed industrial, commercial, and residential buildings as well as one earlier Philadelphia theatre, the now-demolished Forrest Theatre of 1906. The theatre on Delancey follows the Arts and Crafts tradition advocated in the nineteenth century by William Morris and John Ruskin to counter the forces of the industrial revolution. The exterior walls are of earthen, handcrafted materials; beige, brick laid in an English bond and accentuated with terra cotta tiles from the Moravian Tile Works. The dominant decorative feature is a terra cotta band of robed dancers modeled after a Florentine frieze of the 1400s. The natural hued exterior materials continue into the lobby to create a subdued atmosphere that was atypical for the time. Once through the theatre doors, the ornate Classical Revival au-
AIA Philadelphia | context | WINTER 2022 13
with The New York Times, she did not expect to make any “big profits…just meet her expenses.”3 Unfortunately, her lack of financial experience, the cost of running a professional theatre, and an overly ambitious schedule proved a daunting combination. Beulah ran afoul of Bernard Shaw when she produced Misalliance without securing the production rights, which he had sold to another producer. When Shaw inquired of her theatre’s circumstances, she wrote back that the theatre was “simple and dignified in design.” He angrily replied that neither this nor the seat count was useful information. “The number of people a theatre holds is of no consequence compared to the quantity of money it holds. What are the prices of the seats; and how many are there of each denomination?”4 he shot back. Perhaps in response to such issues, Beulah’s business partner, F. H. Shelton, bought out her ownership of the building eight months after the first production. She continued to manage the theatre until 1918, but in 1920 Shelton turned the management over to the Shubert organization, who controlled half of Broadway and managed over a thousand theatres across the country. The Little Theatre of Philadelphia had fallen into the hands it had meant to oppose. Meanwhile, Plays and Players was separately founded in 1911 as an upper-class social club devoted to expanding and developing the theatrical experience for its members. They performed what they considered significant plays in a 100-seat private theatre on 18th Street, and occasionally rented Beulah’s theatre on Delancey. Members considered themselves part of the cultural elite and many of them also belonged to the Philadelphia Art Alliance. In 1922, Shelton broke free from the Shuberts and sold the Little Theatre to the Plays and Players organization, of which he was a founding member. Experimental theatre returned to Delancey Street, but for members only. This operating model continued
until the 1960s, when Plays and Players transformed itself into a professional theatre and opened its doors to the city. Although, Plays and Players’ resident company has since disbanded, the building has hosted a variety of theatrical groups. The longest residing tenant was the Philadelphia Theatre Company, which performed in the theatre for 25 years until moving to their current home on Broad Street. The ongoing mission of Plays and Players, “to provide intelligent, inclusive and diverse plays that engage and entertain audiences”5 is a direct extension of Beulah Jay’s founding intentions. Within the range of what could be considered “Little Theatres,” it would be difficult to find a greater contrast with Plays and Players than the Hedgerow Theatre. While Beulah built her theatre in Philadelphia’s wealthiest neighborhood, the Hedgerow was founded in an outlying mill building, which passed third-hand through a failed attempt at an Arts and Crafts utopia to become the longest running repertory theatre in the country. One feature shared by the two theatres is the connection to the Arts and Crafts movement. The mill was built in 1840 and converted into a meeting hall in 1901 by Architect William Lightfoot Price as part of an attempt to establish a utopian community of craftspeople. He also renovated the adjacent abandoned buildings to serve as a residential hall and a workshop where handcrafted furniture was fabricated to be sold at his office on Walnut Street in Philadelphia. The Rose Valley community was dedicated to individual artistic expression and a sense of self-worth. Unfortunately, the cost of the handcrafted furniture was higher than what people were willing to pay and by 1910 the economics proved unsustainable. The workshop closed and the utopian community dispersed. Rose Valley was subsequently developed into a commuter suburb with a collection of fine homes designed by Will Price.
Beulah E. Jay, to the right, opened the doors of her Little Theatre in 1913. Jasper Deeter, below, founded the Hedgerow Theatre ten years later.
PHOTOS: EVENING PUBLIC LEDGER (BEULAH), THE PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER (JASPER)
PHOTOS: ANNA MARIE SMITH (EXTERIOR), COURTESY OF HEDGEROW THEATRE (INTERIOR)
A second commonality between the two theatres was the force of conviction of the founding individuals to realize their idealistic theatrical aspirations. At the Hedgerow, this individual was Jasper Deeter, who arrived at Swarthmore College in 1923 to take part in a Chautauqua event and, instead, walked three miles to watch his sister rehearse a play in the converted mill building. Somehow, Jasper recognized the potential for cultural exploration in Rose Valley and dedicated his life to producing challenging theatre in this unlikely location. Jasper previously worked with the Provincetown Players, attracted by the commitment to produce new American plays in a noncommercial repertory system. This was his starting point for the Hedgerow, which he believed could provide the theatrical foundation for a meaningful life. As Henry Miller described his quest, “It is not the theater which interests him but life manifesting itself as drama. To convert thought into action, to make each and every act eloquent, that is the essence and function of drama.”6
A small corps of actors initially followed Jasper from New York, but he encouraged community participation and the Rose Valley residents came to embrace the Hedgerow and its charismatic leader. The theatre functioned as a cooperative — the actors received room and board but no salary. They cooked, washed, and worked on the building and grounds. The spirit of Price’s artistic utopia was rekindled and money was not a driving concern, as there was never much around. Through Jasper’s determination and with the dedication of artists who shared his dream, the Hedgerow became a recognized proving ground for modern theatre. One such artist was Wharton Esherick, the modernist woodworker whose furniture is on permanent display at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. His efforts sustained the theatre building; he repaired cracks in the walls, reinforced aging beams, built scenery, props, furniture, a staircase, and freestanding sculptures. Plays were performed five nights a week, sometimes with just a few audience members and sometimes to a full house of 144. The theatrical repertory was expanded each year by a half dozen new productions. In 1933, they performed Misalliance (yes, the same play that got Beulah in trouble) for eight people at fifty cents a seat, and twenty cents of royalty was dutifully sent to Bernard Shaw.7
Jasper led the Hedgerow until 1956, by which time the repertory included 199 plays by writers such as Eugene O’Neill, Susan Glaspell, Sherwood Anderson, Theodore Dreiser and, of course, Shaw. The Hedgerow continues operation today with a resident company of actors and is a nationally recognized progenitor of theatres such as the People’s Light and Theatre Company in Malvern and Freedom Theatre in North Philadelphia. The task of the Little Theatre Movement writ large was to carve out a recognized place for indeA 1932 performance pendent theatre within a cultural landscape domiof Susan Glaspell’s nated by Broadway and Hollywood entertainment. Inheritors, at the The improbable intentions of Beulah Jay and Jasper Hedgerow Theatre, Deeter introduced audiences to modern, intellectutop and the theatre ally challenging plays and contributed to the growth today, bottom. of American drama as an art form. Little Theatre inspired the evolution of theatrical studies as a legitimate academic pursuit and laid the groundwork for the Regional Theatre Movement that continues to engage and challenge audiences throughout Philadelphia and across the country. Citations: 1. Dorothy Chansky, Composing Ourselves; The Little Theatre Movement and the American Audience, Southern Illinois University Press, 2004, p. 5. 2. “This Woman Built a Theatre to Prove Her Theories”, New York Times, June 22, 1913, p. 13. 3. Ibid. 4. Chansky, p. 48. 5. http://playsandplayers.org/about/, accessed September 8, 2021 6. Henry Miller, Remember to Remember, New Directions Books, 1947, p. 116. 7. Barry B. Witham, A Sustainable Theatre: Jasper Deeter at Hedgrow, Pallgrove Macmillan, 2013, p. 21. Dorothy Chansky is Professor of Theatre in the Talkington College of Visual & Performing Arts at Texas Tech University and author of Composing Ourselves; The Little Theatre Movement and the American Audience. Timothy Kerner, AIA is Principal of Terra Studio, LLC; Adjunct Professor of Architecture, Tyler School of Art and Architecture at Temple University and Member of the Context Editorial Board.
AIA Philadelphia | context | WINTER 2022 15
PHOTO: DAVID GORDON
A production of Enemies at The Wilma Theater Company, top. Set Design by David Gordon. Exterior of The Wilma Theater Company located on the Avenue of the Arts, above. The auditorium, left, features a large, curved stage that allows proximity to the audience.
16 WINTER 2022 | context | AIA Philadelphia
SHAPING THE SPACE OF REGIONAL THEATRE BY JAMES F. SCHLATTER
The Regional Theatre Movement has grown over the past sixty years with the belief that every city of sufficient size across America should have its own resident theatre culture. It took time and tremendous effort, but Philadelphia has succeeded in creating a vibrant theatre scene and taken its place on the national map of American regional theatres. Companies in the city and the surrounding region produce an incredible range of work from every historical period, as well as exciting new plays from Philadelphia and around the world. Each of these companies possesses a particular theatrical mission and a distinct history. Collectively, they have grown to become an indelible part of the city’s cultural — and for some theatres — architectural landscape. Three Center City companies — the Wilma Theater Company, the Philadelphia Theatre Company, and the Arden Theatre Company — started out in small “found” spaces and at a certain point determined they needed larger, purpose-built homes to fulfill their artistic missions. The resulting theatre structures are a manifestation of these missions, and their design required a collaborative effort with an architect who understood the principles necessary to support their artistic goals.
small box stage fronted by seating for a hundred spectators. The seating was steeply raked to allow spectators to lean forward and closely scrutinize the action unfolding below (somewhat like an operating theatre). The small space ensured actor/audience proximity, which Blanka refers to as the “envelope of art.” The Zizkas built a reputation for performances of great theatrical invention and challenging political ideas. They produced a wide range of modern European playwrights such as Eugène Ionesco, Bertolt Brecht, Athol Fugard, and their fellow countryman, Václav Havel. These writers wrote with powerful intellectual authority and sophisticated theatrical imagination to expose worlds trapped under autocratic tyranny or in dystopian nightmares. Assisted by Jiri’s expertise with film and video technology, the Wilma’s productions gained wide acclaim for their theatrical invention. The popular and critical success of these productions convinced Blanka and Jiri that they needed to expand their theatrical possibilities and make room for their growing audience base. They chose to build their new home on Broad Street, or the Avenue of the Arts, which the city had recently renamed as part of a major initiative to promote the performing arts. They were fortunate to partner with architect Hugh Hardy, who had gained national recognition for his stunning restoration of two
PHOTO: COURTESY THE WILMA THEATER COMPANY
PHOTO: MATT WARGO
derelict theatres on New York’s 42nd Street, now called the New The founders of the Wilma Theatre Company, Blanka
Victory and the New Amsterdam. In his book Theater of Architec-
and Jiri Zizka, began their life’s work in the theatre in
ture, Hardy articulates a core principle of his design work. He uses
Prague, Czechoslovakia. They believed theatre must
the term “theater” not to evoke spectacle or elaborate decoration.
challenge its audience with harsh truths and hard po-
He considers the primary purpose of a building to provide a mean-
litical choices, a dangerous proposition under Com-
ingful experience of place. As Hardy writes, that experience enables
munist rule. The Zizkas left Czechoslovakia in political exile and
“members of the public [to] become citizen-performers in a theater
came to Philadelphia in 1979 when Jiri, who was trained in film
of community.” Actors and spectators are partners in a shared ex-
and video technology, found a job in the city. They joined a small
perience, and proximity is key.
feminist performance company called the Wilma Project, named
The Wilma Theatre opened its doors in 1996. Theatregoers enter
after the imagined sister of William Shakespeare in Virginia Woolf’s
the lobby directly from the sidewalk. There is no attempt to separate
A Room of One’s Own.
the theatre from the city with an elaborate promenade. Audiences
In 1981, Blanka and Jiri took on the leadership of the Wilma
do not come to the Wilma for theatrical transport or emotional up-
Project and moved the group into a vacant garage on the 2000
lift. They come to be engaged and confronted by what is happening
block of Sansom street. They renovated the space themselves, sand-
in front of them and, by extension, the world around them.
blasting the crumbling plaster to expose the rough factory brick to
Within the auditorium, one’s attention is immediately drawn to
anchor their theatre in a real-world workspace. They constructed a
the large, curved stage. The raked seating replicates the configuration
AIA Philadelphia | context | WINTER 2022 17
of the Sansom Street theatre, but with three times the capacity. The
The Philadelphia Theatre Company (PTC) also began its
seats are arranged in a wide, shallow curve that follows the shape of
life in a small space. Originally called the Philadelphia
the forestage. The stage space is expansive, and the high ceilings offer
Company, it was founded by Robert Hedley and Jean
unlimited theatrical possibilities. But that does not prevent the actors
Harrison in 1974, and they performed in several Center
from fully occupying the stage and ensuring contact with their au-
City locations. Sara Garonzik became Artistic Director in 1982
dience. Continuity with the original space on Sansom is manifest in
and the name was changed to the Philadelphia Theatre Company.
the bold sophistication and political seriousness of the productions.
Sara believed Philadelphia audiences would want to see the best
When the Wilma Theater was completed in 1996, the dramatic
plays written by a new generation of American playwrights. From
increase in size presented a serious challenge to the directors. Ac-
across the country, writers such as Sam Shepard, August Wilson,
cording to Blanka, “the stakes are higher in a bigger space…the
Marsha Norman, and David Mamet often set their plays beyond
question is, can you actually take risks the way you do in a small
—or on the ragged fringes — of major urban centers. Their charac-
theater when you are risking people’s jobs when you do some-
ters may live small lives, but their stories reverberate across national
thing too crazy or too experimental?” The Ziskas indeed rose to
culture. The plays gave these characters a close hearing, focusing
the challenge and now, 25 years later, as Blanka passes the Wilma’s
on the painful personal crises of gender identity, race, and poverty
leadership to Philadelphia playwright James Ijames, the audience
they were facing in their lives.
can expect to be further challenged in unique and unsettling ways.
Sara sought to “capture this new regional American voice that was appearing throughout the country.” She was right that Philadelphia audiences were ready to hear that voice, and she also knew that PTC would need a larger stage and more seating to respond to the growing demand. In 1982 the company moved to Plays and Players Theatre on Delancey Street. It was built in 1913 as a “Little Theatre” (see page 12) with a large proscenium stage and a balcony with 324 seats. For the next 25 years, PTC would be the primary resident company of Plays and Players. But the theatre was nearly a century old and as PTC evolved, the company sought the expanded possibilities a new structure could offer. A theatre that produced contemporary American plays would require a modern home. PTC partnered with KieranTimberlake, who had previously designed the F. Otto Haas Stage for the Arden Theatre (at right). KT’s theatre portfolio was not extensive, but their exquisitely designed structures for a variety of public gatherings resonated with PTC. According to Richard Maimon, partner of KieranTimberlake, the goal was to design a space that would provide audiences “a contemporary, urbane, and intimate experience.” PTC explored many potential sites with their architect and decided that the company’s new home should be in a “highly visible location.” PTC chose to locate on the Avenue of the Arts in the Symphony House, a residential high-rise developed by Dranoff Properties and designed by BLT Architects. The theatre opened in 2007 as the Suzanne Roberts Theatre to honor Ms. Roberts who, together with her husband, Ralph Roberts, founder of Comcast, were long-time benefactors. The lobby shares key elements with the white space entered directly from the street. Both lobbies are fronted by expansive windows which allow visibility
The modern spaces of the Philadelphia Theater Company were designed to reflect their contemporary productions. Interior, top, and lobby above. 18 WINTER 2022 | context | AIA Philadelphia
between the people inside and those walking by on Broad Street – sharing the
PHOTOS: © PETER AARON / OTTO
Wilma. It is a very open, high-ceilinged,
same urban space. The lobby finishes are minimalist, but the carpet of richly colored, interlocking rectangles conveys sleek movement. A wide central staircase leads up to the open mezzanine which surrounds the lobby and provides a sense of processional arrival for the theatre’s patrons. Entering the 365-seat auditorium, one’s attention is drawn to the open, expansive stage. Stepped seating is reminiscent of the configuration of Plays and Players, but that is where the similarities end. Acoustics are as critical as space in the telling of PTC’s stories, and every character’s voice must be heard. The auditorium walls have a theatrical flair with undulating gypsum panels hand-stained in deep tones of red. The panels provide optimal acoustics for the human voice while contributing visual depth and richness. The entire theatre was constructed to minimize noise and vibrations from the street and the subway below. The Arden Theatre began in circumstances not unlike those of the Wilma and PTC. Founded in 1988 by Terry Nolen, Amy Mur-
Exterior of the Arden Theatre Co. located on 2nd Street in Old City, above, The F. Otto Haas Stage, left, is a reconfigurable “Black Box”.
phy, and Aaron Posner, their first space was the 70-seat Studio Theatre at the Walnut Street Theatre. In their second year they co-founded the St. Stephen’s Performing Arts Center at the
PHOTOS: BARRY HALKIN
Episcopal Church on 10th Street. Here they re-shaped a meeting room into a small theatre with both a proscenium and a thrust stage surrounded with raked seating on three sides. The unusual arrangement enabled the Arden to create complete scenic worlds and architectural structures. The thrust stage projected outward to create additional performance space and ensure proximity of actors and spectators. In a very short time, the Arden achieved recognition for produc-
Arden Children’s Theatre in 1998, the first resident professional children’s theatre.
ing a wide range of stories in a variety of theatrical styles, “classical
The construction of a new, permanent home is a dramatic mo-
and contemporary, intimate and epic, musical and dramatic.” They
ment in the life of a theatre company. It is a daunting enterprise
became especially popular for their musical productions, due to Terry
that requires a deep commitment by the company’s members,
Nolen’s expertise as a director of musical theatre. Terry, Amy and
their audiences, funders, and the surrounding community. It is an
Aaron saw very quickly they needed a comfortable, modern space
opportunity to shape an architectural space in a way that enables
to accommodate their rapidly growing audience. The St. Stephen’s
the company to fulfill its unique artistic mission. The homes of the
space could be accessed only by stairs and was not air-conditioned,
Wilma, the Arden and PTC are embodiments of their missions and
much needed for a theatre in Philadelphia’s hot summer months.
share two fundamental principles. The stage spaces are sufficiently
The Arden did not seek an elaborate state-of-the-art build-
large to allow a great range of theatrical visions and scenic designs.
ing. Rather, they saw themselves as the city’s “hometown” the-
Equally critical is the direct contact of actors and audience afford-
atre. In 1991 the company relocated to an historic building on
ed by the theatre’s design. The mission of Regional Theatre is not
2nd Street in Old City, which includes a warehouse structure of
to provide an escape from daily life or consumable entertainment
the 1880s with an early 20th century storefront addition. For
experiences. It is to connect with the audience, provide challeng-
the initial phase of renovations, they partnered with architect
ing encounters, bring theatre into the community, and become an
David Slovic, who had designed sets for the Arden. The proj-
integral part of the region’s vibrant cultural life.
ect focused on the front of the building, with the first floor reconfigured as a lobby and with a 175-seat theater, called the Arcadia, one floor above. When the Arden decided to expand their production and audience capacities, they hired KieranTimberlake to design the F. Otto Haas Stage. Despite the increased size of 375 seats, the theatre is a reconfigurable “Black Box.” Continuing the flexible
1. Hugh Hardy, Theater of Architecture, Princeton Architectural Press, 2013, p. 133 2. Peter Dobrin, Wilma Theater Guding Spirit Blanka Zizka is Stepping Down, Philadelphia Inquirer, June 30, 2021. 3. Interview with Sara Garonzik 4. Interview with Richard Maimon 5. Arden website: ardentheatre.org. Accessed 02/2020
format of their earlier space, the Haas allows a range of configurations, including proscenium, thrust, and in-the-round, all of which maintain an intimate feel. The expanded spatial opportunities of the two theatres provided the catalyst for creating the
James Schlatter served as a member of the Theatre Arts faculty at the University of Pennsylvania for thirty years, teaching a wide range of practical and academic courses and directing many stage productions. He received his doctorate from the City University of New York in 1992.
AIA Philadelphia | context | WINTER 2022 19
SCENIC DESIGN, PERFORMANCE, AND PERCEPTION BY TIMOTHY KERNER A theatre can be an impressive work of architecture, or it can be a bowl-shaped lawn, or just a box on the street. It is a place where people come together for a shared experience, and the physical configuration shapes the act of gathering, the parameters of performance, and the perceptions of the audience. The action begins and the words and movement evoke an imagined space. This performance space exists beyond the physical location but is linked with the theatre to varying degrees; theatrical productions can take us to distant places, or they can bring us to a deeper awareness of our everyday surroundings. The stage set supports the performance and grounds the action in the physical space. Scenic design embraces a basic paradox of performance – it is simultaneously here and elsewhere. Scenic elements can be highly realistic or suggestively abstract and they serve to link the imagined with the real and the performance with the physical surroundings. This article explores the practice of scenic design and its approach to the complementary and contradictory relationship between performance space and physical space. For this purpose, we turn to three Philadelphia-based scenic designers – Marie Laster, Thom Weaver and Matt Saunders. Matt is an Associate Professor in the Department of Theater at Swarthmore College, has an MFA from Yale and has designed over 150 works of theater, opera, and dance in Philadelphia, New York and beyond. Thom is a lighting and scenic designer who also went to Yale and has designed a similarly impressive number of performances. Both have been recognized with various theatrical awards. Marie offers a younger perspective for our inquiry. She studied architecture at Philadelphia University and was drawn back to the theatre after graduating in 2015. Since then, she has designed award nominated productions in the city and elsewhere. The work of these three designers operates within a realm between architecture and performance. The form of the stage, seating arrangement and viewing angles are of obvious importance to the design of the theatrical experience. According to Matt, “It is very much the purview of the set designer to be hypersensitive to the physical relationship between the performer and the audience” Scenic design and the architecture of the theatre work together to support the audience’s experience. “There is a commonality of purpose between the two that has to do with ritual, and the ‘gathering of humanity’ together under one roof,” continues Matt. The ideas addressed in this article reflect on the relations between the perceptions of the audience, theatrical performance, and physical design.
20 WINTER 2022 | context | AIA Philadelphia
PHOTO: JOANNA AUSTIN PHOTO: MATT SAUNDERS
EXAMINE THE EVERYDAY Scenic designers often begin with the ordinary. Matt explains that he strives to “appreciate beauty in the mundane…the history of spaces, and the stories told by those spaces.” Everyday objects can serve as sources of inspiration, of particular interest are the materials that support the stories of humanity. These materials are tied to the action through their functional roles. As Thom asserts, “functionality is often what creates beauty. These pathways to clarity, to understanding. Design hints that send you in a direc1 Describe the Night, tion and give you the tools to manage the path, but Wilma Theater, 2020. Set don’t tell you explicitly how or what to feel or think. design: Matt Saunders, lightGreat design makes you do that part on your own.” director and the actors. According to Matt, ing design: Thom Weaver. The mundane is used in expressive form in the set “computer aided modeling…feels too virtual. of Describe the Night, a collaboration between Thom When designing for performance, the worlds 2 Daddy, Vineyard Theater and Matt for the Wilma Theater in 2020. The play created want to be filled with character, hisand the New Group at Pershing was written by Rajiv Joseph and follows the story of tory and texture…a ‘realness.’ The physical, Square Signature Center, 2019. seven citizens of the Soviet Union, weaving real and tactile model is much better at communicatSet design: Matt Saunders. imagined events while reflecting on the ambiguous ing that sense.” relations between truth and falsehood. The stage is lined with 400 cardboard boxes Great works of architecture can sometimes serve as that form the space around different functions ranging from an interrogation room inspiration for scenic design. Matt examined the housto a car rental office . The boxes are filled with records of the past that haunt the es of Richard Neutra, Rudolph Schindler and Eileen Gray characters. The common, cardboard box is multiplied to claustrophobic effect to for the design of Daddy, a 2019 play written by Jeremy convey the idea of life trapped within a world of dubious facts. O. Harris and performed at Pershing Square Signature The physical model is the most important tool to convey the design of a stage Center on 42nd Street (designed by Frank Gehry). The set. The model affords an understanding of the physical space, assists with the stagplay is set in a midcentury house in the LA hills and exing of the action, and supports the collaborative process between the designer, the plores the problematic relationship between a black artist and a white art dealer . For his “secondary” research, which Matt describes as poetic exploration, he studied the paintings of David Hockney, which “communicated a certain ‘vibe’ that felt right.” The projection of a feeling or an emotion that supports the action on stage is a central concern of the scenic designer.
AIA Philadelphia | context | WINTER 2022 | 21
PHOTO: MARIE LASTER
SUPPORT THE STORY Storytelling is key to the theatrical arts and the scenery is intended to sustain the story and engage the minds of the audience. A Boy and His Soul was written by Colman Domingo and performed at the Kitchen Theatre in Ithaca, New York in 2021. The solo performance explores the main character’s record collection in the basement of his West Philadelphia family home and uses music to bring the audience through the vibrant memories of his youth. The play takes place in a partially rendered basement . The projecting joists frame the action and draw the audience within the psychic space of the character’s memories. Subtly suggestive scenic elements invite the audience to render the place within their minds. “Abstract sets leave more opportunity for the audience to interpret what they see on stage,” explains Marie. “When you see forms that don’t present themselves as ‘normal’, your mind attempts to fig-
22 WINTER 2022 | context | AIA Philadelphia
3 A Boy and His Soul, Kitchen Theatre in Ithaca, New York in 2021 Set design: Marie Laster. ure out what you are looking at. That engages the audience and places their imagination within the show.” Scenic design requires the designer to “get into the minds of characters and figure out where they are... Sometimes, there are elements that make suggestions of a place or feeling and the words and movement of the actors create the full scene.” A scenic designer must develop a deep understanding of human expression and movement to support the connection between the performance and the place created on stage. This understanding is broadened through observation of everyday life. “I can walk down the streets of center city and see vibrant people and so many different types of expression,” says Marie.
PHOTO: COURTESY OF LINDA JOHNSON PHOTO: MARIE LASTER
3 Rachel, Quintessence Theatre 2020. Set design: Marie Laster.
FOCUS ON THE FIGURE Stage sets are intended to support the activities and movements of the performers. Matt explains that “the design is the context where the thing happens, it is not the thing.” The “thing” is the dramatic performance, and the scenes are designed around the drama. When Matt sketches his initial ideas, he “always draws the figure first…then the environment around that figure…Theater is an art form that uses humanity as its medium.” Performances bring life to the stage and “body language will give the audience a sense of where they are and how it makes them feel,” explains Marie. This can be seen in the two photographs of Marie’s set design for Quintessence Theatre’s 2020 performance of Rachel [3,4]. The play was written in 1916 by Angelina Weld Grimke and focuses on a young woman struggling with the realities of American racism. The play is historically significant for its realistic portrayal of black domestic life and the frank manner it addresses the painful manifestations of racism in the early twentieth century.
4 Rachel, Quintessence Theatre 2020. Actress: Jessica Johnson.
A comparison of the two images – one with an uninhabited stage and one with actress Jessica Johnson in the role of Rachel — reveals the transformation of lifeless objects into active elements within the story. The chairs and table gain the life and meaning conveyed by the actor; the tie between the animate and the inanimate is apparent. Both scenic design and architecture derive their significance through association with human experience.
AIA Philadelphia | context | WINTER 2022 23
PHOTO: MATT SAUNDERS
PHOTO: DAN NORMAN
EXPRESS THE POETICS
6 The Bluest Eye, Guthrie Theater, 2017. Set design: Matt Saunders
Stage sets can focus more on the poetics of place than actual physical characteristics. The set Matt designed for the Guthrie Theater’s 2017 production of The Bluest Eye, based on the novel by Toni Morrison, is a powerful example of intentional absence . Set in 1940s Ohio, the story focuses on a young girl seeking love and survival amidst domestic turmoil. Matt did not attempt to portray the specific locations within the play, “but rather the depiction of an emotional state…the set design became an envelope for the scenes to shift inside of, an envelope for the violence, and the emotions. I designed the great expanse of the Guthrie stage as a large, overwhelming void of cracked concrete, with a single lonely dandelion emerging through a crack in the back wall.” Abstraction provides opportunities for imaginative engagement and allows greater degrees of interpretation by both actors and audience. It also leaves room for ongoing change. According to Matt, “Theatrical Design is a collaborative effort, and on some level, given the ephemeral, communal aspect of the craft, a design for the theater can never be truly “finished.” Theater is a living, breathing art form, which is constantly changing, evolving. A theatrical design is a malleable world…it is certainly not a static, or fixed product.” The ephemeral nature of the stage reflects the changing dynamics of reality and the mutability of experience. Scenic design utilizes physical elements to evoke visual poetics. Through imaginative perception, the audience forms visceral connections to the challenging content of contemporary drama; content that can vary on a nightly basis.
24 WINTER 2022 | context | AIA Philadelphia
CONNECT THE SPACES Matt and Thom also collaborated for the set of James Ijame’s play, Kill Move Paradise, for the Wilma in 2018 . The pure, white stage has multiple proscenium arches that recede to frame a horizontal band of light approached by a steeply pitched ramp. Three black men and one adolescent, who were all recently and unexpectantly killed, are dropped one by one onto the stage and left to grapple with the reasons they are there. The setting is a form of purgatory, a place of reflection that challenges the audience to think more deeply about violence in America. The repeating prosceniums reflect the space of the physical theatre, but the abstract peculiarity of the stage creates a place apart. This division is removed when the fourth wall — the separation between performance and audience — is torn aside by an actor
7 Kill Move Paradise, Wilma Theater, 2018. Set design: Matt Saunders, lighting design: Thom Weaver
who turns to ask why the audience is there. The surprise and awkwardness of the moment lays the challenging content of the play before the consciousness of the gathering. The stage design activates a tension between the performance space and the physical space. The sensation could be compared to the relation between the portrayed depth of a painting and the canvas surface, which is also a relation between the imagined and the physical. The austerity of the scene, the artful manipulation of light and the tense play of dual realities, engage the audience within a shared psychological experience. For Thom, “theatre design is about creating a sense of place or space in the mind…good design engages and employs the imagination of the audience...makes them see things that aren’t there and completes the design in their own heads.”
This short inquiry into the scenic arts highlights several important concepts relevant to the practice of architecture: human experience is the central determinant of design, the everyday is a fundamental source of inspiration, and an understanding of place resides in both the body and mind. The dynamic relationships between performance space and physical space crafted by these three scenic designers are compelling examples of the connections between the tangible and the intangible, between imagination and reality. One significant difference between architecture and scenic design is that one aspires towards permanence while the other is inherently ephemeral. This ephemerality affords an expressive freedom to explore the changing relations between narrative, movement, and space. The final conclusion is that anyone interested in developing an understanding for the interactions of human experience, physical space, and perception would do well to attend the theatre. Timothy Kerner, AIA is Principal of Terra Studio, LLC; Adjunct Professor of Architecture, Tyler School of Art and Architecture at Temple University and Member of the Context Editorial Board.
AIA Philadelphia | context | WINTER 2022 25
A HOME FOR EXILE DEBORAH BLOCK, PRODUCING ARTISTIC DIRECTOR, THEATRE EXILE It was never my intention to build a theatre.
a huge success and launched a scrappy new perfor-
In fact, it was never my intention to run a
theatre. My goal was to create art that made
Three years later, I took on the role of Producing
a difference, through directing, teaching, and
Artistic Director. We brought our education program
even dancing. But, things started one way… and
into our neighborhood schools. We created a new
then they changed. The same thing happened with
play development program and not only were we us-
ing our venue at least once a year, we were renting
Theatre Exile was created in 1996 by a group of
it to other small companies. Things kept happening.
artists that set out to explore the complexities of the
We were doing free programs for kids in the park. The
human condition. They had no specific home and were
students from our education program were saying hi
inspired by the grit and passion of Philadelphia. They
to me at the bus stop. The restaurants loved us. And
sought to put the artist at the center of their art. They
even though some of our neighbors never walked into
felt like they were rattling the gates of the mainstream
the space, folks in the Acme and the local diner always
and named themselves Theatre Exile.
asked about our next show. One day in 2016 as I was
Almost 10 years later, I joined the nomadic company as co-artistic director. The desire to settle down was nowhere in the con-
coming out of the subway, I saw a small sign from the neighborhood business district directing travelers to Theatre Exile. We were part of the neighborhood.
versation in December 2008, when Exile signed a lease
And right after that…our building went up for sale.
for an office with a small garage. We just needed a
We had options. We could go back to being no-
place to rehearse and build sets. The floor was uneven
mads. We could find a home in Center City. We could
cement with divots that seemed impossible to fix. It was
even shut down. And while the board and I explored
located on the southern edge of 19147; nowhere close
each of those options, I approached the new owners.
to where any of the professional theatres were located.
They showed me the plans for their new building, and I
And yet, it would later become the location of our per-
asked them to consider a re-design. I explained that the
majority of what a theatre does can be subterranean. They immediately recognized that in their new base-
over a hundred companies of a variety of sizes and
ment space, which others might find substandard, we
working models. Finding performance venues was
could find a home.
becoming harder and harder. We decided to take a
Theatre Exile produces work that is daring, direct,
risk and produce a show in our space. We changed
engaging, sometimes bloody and definitely not for ev-
the zoning for the building and in the fall, I directed
eryone — kind of like South Philly where we live. We
Iron by Rona Munro for the Fringe Festival. It was
had stopped talking about ourselves as an artist cen-
26 WINTER 2022 | context | AIA Philadelphia
PHOTO: MICHAEL PALAMOUNTAIN / EN ROUTE
In 2010 Philadelphia theatre was thriving with
tered organization. We now talked about our community and what art did for our audiences. We valued theatre that made the audience think and feel. We would say that an Exile production isn’t over until the conversations happen in the bars and restaurants after the show. Art doesn’t change the world, but our audiences who see it will. We had become a professional company that valued community and the diverse voices that form it. We decided to finally take the metaphor of Exile being on the edge of the theatre world and realize it physically by building a new performance space. A board member introduced me to Cecil Baker. Cecil, in my opinion, is equal parts visual poet and architect. Through his vision and love of art, and the understanding of Theatre Exile, he created a perfect design. He and his team prioritized flexibility and a no-nonsense, rough-around-the-edges aesthetic. He embraced the descent into the theatre as an asset. To enter Theatre Exile is to dig deeper. He kept the roughness of poured concrete and used pipe and slate to establish our look. It was an intimate, flexible space that a small company could maintain over the years. It was a palette where art would be created, and ideas exchanged. This was not what I thought Theatre Exile’s trajectory would bring. But making a difference in the world with art means connecting directly to our audiences. Philadelphia’s theatre scene is filled with companies of every shape and size. And while the large companies
WE WERE PART OF THE NEIGHBORHOOD. AND RIGHT AFTER THAT… OUR BUILDING WENT UP FOR SALE.
may be the backbone of the cultural community, the small companies that are talking directly to their audiences, are the heart of it. AIA Philadelphia | context | WINTER 2022 27
BACK IN THE THEATRE
LADDERS, SCAFFOLDING, AND CONSTRUCTION MATERIALS surround the set. In fact, the entire stage is the set for the show.
28 WINTER 2022 | context | AIA Philadelphia
PHOTO: SETH ROZIN
It’s difficult to put into words how I feel right now. Of course I’m tremendously excited and, as you might expect, a little apprehensive. You can never predict how an audience will respond to any work we do. But I also feel very much at home. Actually, I feel like I’m home again, since we have been closed for the last year and a half due to Covid. This is the opening production of our 2021-2022 season. I chose to produce The Chinese Lady for several reasons. The moment I read it I knew we had to do it. The play is about a young Chinese woman, Afong Moy, just 14 years old, who was supposedly the first Chinese person to arrive in America. She dreams of being a cultural ambassador, sharing the story of her country and its cultural traditions with Americans. But she is in fact exhibited around the country as a “specimen” of Oriental culture. She is put on display as a racial curiosity, a “freak” to entertain white audiences who believe they belong to a more advanced culture and society. Lloyd Suh’s extraordinary play confronts that abhorrent practice in complex and imaginative ways, making it exactly the kind of play I have wanted to do since I founded InterAct in 1988. Our mission, as we say on our website, is to produce “new and contemporary plays that explore the social, political, and cultural issues of our time.” In the photograph, it looks as if the set for the production is still in the process of being built. Ladders, scaffolding, and construction materials surround the set. In fact, the entire stage is the set for the show. This is the result of a novel concept that the director, Justin Jain, had for staging the play within the frame of our current moment. The production exists in two worlds at the same time: the world of the play, set in America in 1834, and the contemporary world the audience watching the show is living in now. Audiences for The Chinese Lady are asked to play a double role. They are the people attending this cultural curiosity in 1834 and, at the same time, they are sitting in the theatre watching themselves watch the same cultural curiosity. This technique of meta-theatre, which we employ on occasion, endows the experience with a heightened awareness of our own complicity in the othering that happens in the space. There is also a third world, inside Ms. Moy’s heart and mind, which the talented actress Bi Jean Ngo gives voice to in the play. Our new Proscenium Theatre was expertly designed by Philadelphia architect Christopher Kircher of Metcalf Architecture and Design. It’s ideally configured for staging a play like The Chinese Lady and enables us to fulfill InterAct’s artistic mission. People who saw productions at our old space on Sansom Street, The Adrienne (the original home of the Wilma
SETH ROZIN, PRODUCING ARTISTIC DIRECTOR, INTERACT THEATRE Theater) will be surprised to learn that the footprint of both theatres is the same. We didn’t want to dramatically increase the number of seats, but we did want to create a space with more height and depth to allow for greater artistic possibilities, while maintaining the intimacy we had spent years cultivating with our audiences. The Adrienne had challenging sight lines because of structural pillars on stage and in the house, while the Proscenium Theatre at The Drake maximizes design and staging opportunities for a space of its size. Obviously, all plays are meant to be seen live, and can lose a significant part of their impact when performed virtually. But The Chinese Lady is so fundamentally about a live, in person audience watching this live, racist spectacle as 19thCentury Americans that it feels like the right play to welcome audiences back into our theatre. Our audiences don’t come to InterAct just to be entertained; they want to be directly engaged with what they are watching onstage and feel provoked to consider the play’s implications about themselves and the world today. I expect Lloyd Suh’s play, and Justin Jain’s direction of it, to accomplish that as powerfully as anything we have produced to date. Another reason we chose to do this play was a very practical one. We are still a long way from putting Covid behind us, so we are taking strong precautions to ensure that our audiences are safe in the theatre. Everyone coming to the show must show proof of vaccination and will be required to wear a mask indoors. InterAct staff will help direct people to socially distanced seating (we’re limiting our capacity to 60% to start the season). Patrons will be allowed to sit together with their companions, but they’ll be separated from others by an empty seat or two. This is a play that requires only two actors, so we’ll be able to ensure social distance between actors and audience. A two-actor play will also enhance the intimacy of people coming together to share this live theatre experience. Of course, no one has any idea what will happen in the coming weeks, months, years. But I have great confidence that our upcoming show will put us on the right path, and that Philadelphia’s great theatre culture is coming back, alive and well. We are incredibly excited to welcome audiences back to our theatre, and to all the theatres in Philadelphia. As told to co-editor James Schlatter on stage after a rehearsal for The Chinese Lady and one week from reopening after an eighteen-month pandemic shutdown
AIA Philadelphia | context | WINTER 2022 29
DESIGN PROFILE ARTYARD CENTER
Edward Robinson Architecture & William Welch Architecture PHOTO: PAUL WARCHOL XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX PHOTO: ERIC FIORITO
30 WINTER 2022 | context | AIA Philadelphia
PHOTO: STUART WATSON
ArtYard is an interdisciplinary alternative contemporary art center comprised of an exhibition space, theater, and residency program, dedicated to presenting transformative artwork, fostering unexpected collaborations, and incubating original new work. Opened in 2021, ArtYard Center honors Frenchtown’s industrial past and the organization’s mission to bring provocative art, performance, and creative mischief to a small town at the Delaware River’s edge. At its core is a state-of-the-art theater, wrapped in a gallery, and the building’s layered entrance creates a secondary outdoor stage that overlooks the Delaware River and a generous architectural “yard.” The sturdy exterior shell responds to the forces of the river and reflects the scale, craft, and forms of the early industrial buildings that were once on this site and throughout the Delaware Valley. The interior is distinctly modern, defined by threshold moments, exposed structural materials, isolated steel walls, embedded artifacts, and large open spaces for art. The architectural journey from the entrance, past the ticket booth, and up grand stairs visually reconnects one to the town and takes visitors through the galleries and past the brass bar into the theater lobby and vestibule. Finally, the impressive view of the theater space opens from above to reveal a dramatic auditorium below. Stadium seating allows for clear views to the edge of the stage, which is optimized for dance and theatre. A full catwalk system, 39-line sets with pinrail spotlines allows the theater to take on a variety of shows and performances. A reclaimed plastic bottle chandelier by the artist Willie Cole is suspended from the ceiling. The winding aisle path to one’s chair heightens the anticipation of the act to come. n
PROJECT: ArtYard Center LOCATION: 13 Front Street, Frenchtown, NJ CLIENT: ArtYard PROJECT SIZE: 20,981 sq ft PROJECT TEAM: Edward Robinson Architecture & William Welch Architecture (Architects) Bob Hsu, Architect (Project Advisor) NV5 (Civil Engineer) Larsen and Landis (Structural Engineer) Pyrus Horticultural (Landscape Architect) Aaron Jia (MEP Urban Technologies) BEAM (Lighting Consultant ) Chris Langhart (Technical Director) John Chester (Acoustic and Projection Consultant) RWDI (Acoustics) Goddard Design Co. (Theatrical Lighting Control) Doherty Construction and Rigging (Rigging Consultant) R&D LLC (Seating Consultant) Rich Bittner (Dance Floor Consultant) Sinclair Inc. (Audio, Video, and Projection) W.S. Cumby Construction (General Contractor)
AIA Philadelphia | context | WINTER 2022 31
ALLENTOWN ARTS PARK PAVILION
Atkin Olshin Schade Architects The Allentown Arts Park project is envisioned as a revitalized and reimagined use of a current passive green space to celebrate the City’s artistic heritage in downtown Allentown, Pennsylvania. Bordered by the Allentown Museum of Art, Miller Symphony Hall, and the Baum School of Art, the green space also acts as a starting point to the City’s Arts Walk by highlighting a corridor of artistic history and culture. This project provides a lively Park renovation and proposes a new structure to the existing Arts Park which adds to its ethos of celebrating arts and culture by activating the green area into a performing arts space. The proposed Arts Park improvements include extensive new landscaping and a new pavilion which serves as a band shell and support space to host local and regional music and theater events and performances. The Arts Park space is meant to be responsive to the seasons and provides accom-
32 WINTER 2022 | context | AIA Philadelphia
modations for various Park events from ticketed concerts to free public performances and informal gatherings. The overall design of the curvilinear band shell itself is derived from the contextual urban fabric of Allentown; drawing inspiration from sheet music scores in response to the Symphony’s proximity, to a piece of drapery reminiscent of the large textile collection at the nearby Allentown Art Museum and the region’s silk mill history. The use of laminated wood to achieve this form has been selected both for its flexibility and its efforts to support sustainability as a renewable green product. The curvilinear form arcs over the stage providing shelter and shade and then curves back in plan enclosing a performance “Green Room” and ancillary support facilities. A suspended flexible truss structure over the stage allows customized audio equipment and lighting to be set up for each performance. n
PROJECT: Allentown Arts Park Pavilion LOCATION: Allentown, Pennsylvania RENDERINGS: ATKIN OLSHIN SCHADE ARCHITECTS
CLIENT: City Center Allentown PROJECT SIZE: 2,500 sf PROJECT TEAM: Atkin Olshin Schade Architects (Architect) Jon Morrison, PE (Consultant Structural Engineer) Acentech (AV/Acoustic Consultants) Omnes Studio (Landscape Architect) North Star Construction Management (General Contractor)
DESIGN PROFILE MALTZ CENTER FOR THE PERFORMING ARTS
34 WINTER 2022 | context | AIA Philadelphia
preservation of this great hall, the initial project spurred additional achievements for the university and greater Cleveland community, including the addition of two theater spaces. Concert and theater venues are mainstays on campuses— rare are the university complexes that unite an extraordinary architectural landmark with state-of-the-art sound projection and technical capabilities. n
PHOTOS: HALKIN MASON PHOTOGRAPHY
MGA Partners was chosen to design and oversee the completion of the first phase, shaping a Concert Hall within the existing Sanctuary and creating a Recital Hall. The venue is the largest gathering space on campus and can be used for a variety of ensembles and festivals, while still serving as a place of worship. The most prominent design insertion, a 66,000-pound glass and metal canopy allow adjustable acoustic and lighting support for varying performance ensembles. This carefully conceived, custom fabrication provides continuous views through to the original vaulted dome, while perfecting the necessary sound engineering. Richly appointed with period detail and decorative finishes — fitting for one of the most prominent and historic Reform congregations in the US— the project required a significant preservation component to uncover the beauty of many historic details, including the stained-glass clerestory, the Guastavino tiled vaulted dome, marble corridors as well as the limestone facade. Technical challenges of inserting a concert hall stage into a room that would also be used for worship were accomplished by modifying the attributes to the room to serve new purposes. Stained glass windows became operable lighting and projection positions, the operable concert hall stage can be lowered in sections reducing the stage from concert size, to ensemble, to bima for worship services, pews are refit with theatre seating and augmented with custom designed removable chairs and the Akoustolith dome was restored and coated in an indiscernible patchwork pattern to increase the acoustic reflectivity. Immediately recognized for the visionary
PROJECT: Maltz Center for the Performing Arts LOCATION: Cleveland, Ohio CLIENT: Case Western Reserve University PROJECT SIZE: 45,000 sq ft PROJECT TEAM: MGA Partners (Architect) Westlake Reed Leskosky (Associate Architect) Barber & Hoffman, Inc. (Structural Engineer, local) CVM (Structural Engineer) Karpinski Engineering (Systems, Civil Engineer) Akustiks, LLC (Acoustic Consulting) Theatre Projects (Theatre Consulting) The Lighting Practice (Lighting Design) Behnke Associates (Landscape Design) Blundall Associates, Inc. (Cost Estimating) Shen Milsom Wilke (Audio/Visual Consulting) Turner Construction Company (General Contractor)
AIA Philadelphia | context | WINTER 2022 35
DESIGN PROFILE 181 MERCER
KieranTimberlake As an urban campus, New York University is in great need of increased space to strengthen its academic culture. In response to requests across many departments, 181 Mercer was conceived as a multi-use building of 750,000 square feet at a prominent site on Houston Street. NYU prioritized specialized spaces for its renowned performing arts programs, as well as spaces for academic instruction, athletics, student life, and student and faculty housing. Working in collaboration with Davis Brody Bond, KieranTimberlake designed a building that accommodates these diverse needs, embodying the character and vibrancy of NYU and offering new ways to engage with the city. The building is intended to build community through its varied and eclectic uses, organizing them into neighborhoods that connect to an expansive Commons offering a place of meeting, gathering, and study. 181 Mercer takes advantage of its 360-degree relationship with the city by placing circulation along a transparent
36 WINTER 2022 | context | AIA Philadelphia
perimeter and program spaces toward the center. This reversal of conventional building organization allows daylight and views to be shared by all, providing natural wayfinding, and revealing NYU’s vibrancy and activity to the outside. The Performing Arts program includes a 350-seat fully equipped proscenium theater shared by the entire NYU community for larger-scale performances; two flexible theaters of 150 seats each, the End Stage and Warehouse, as well as eight acting studios, for the Tisch School of the Arts Department of Drama; and a range of ensemble and individual music practice spaces for the Steinhardt School’s Music and Performing Arts programs. The complex volumetric and technical needs of these spaces were accommodated through an iterative, participatory design process with priority given to spatial character and quality, acoustics, sight lines, production capability, front of house amenities, and back of house operations. n
PROJECT: 181 Mercer LOCATION: New York, New York CLIENT: New York University PROJECT SIZE: 750,000 sf PROJECT TEAM: KieranTimberlake (Architect) Davis Brody Bond, LLP (Architect of Record ) Langan (Civil Engineering) Severud Associates- Consulting Engineers PC (Structural Engineering) Bard, Rao + Athanas Consulting Engineers, PC (MEP/FP Engineering) Fisher Dachs Associates (Theatre Planning & Design) JaffeHolden (Theatre Acoustic Design) Cerami & Associates (Building Acoustic Design) Tillotson Design Associates (Lighting Design) Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, Inc (Landscape Design) Atelier Ten (Environmental Design) Davella Studios (Culinary Design) Heintges Consulting Engineers P.C. (Curtain Wall Consultant) Sasaki (Athletics Design) Van Deusen & Associates (Elevator Consultant) SECTION NORTH/SOUTH
Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates, Inc. (Roofing Consultant)
RENDERINGS: BROOKLYN DIGITAL FOUNDRY
AIA Philadelphia | context | WINTER 2022 37
TECHNOLOGY Los Angeles
OUR NEW OFFICE (after 12/15/2021) 620 W. Germantown Pike, Suite 210 Plymouth Meeting, PA 19462 215 245 8244
Faith and Liberty Discovery Center JacobsWyper Architects | Photo © Local Projects
AIA Philadelphia | context | WINTER 2022 39
Beam 1/2, Art to come
Conscious choices for people & planet. At Tarkett North America, we believe that together, we can make a positive impact on people and the planet. That’s why we’re connecting our sustainability efforts with what our customers value and our world needs. It’s an active, living commitment to create a future where people and the planet prosper in balance. Where sustainable flooring solutions don’t just perform. They inspire.
For more information, contact: AE: YVONNE PELLEGRINI firstname.lastname@example.org 610.731.6635
CORDED CLOTH 11570 (Blanched 60805/Light Carbon 60803/Night Vale 60801) Powerbond® installation KNOT STITCH G0057 (Smolder 60804) 18” x 36” Modular Vertical Ashlar installation
40 WINTER 2022 | context | AIA Philadelphia
2021 DESIGN AWARDS
PHOTOS: BRUCE DAMONTE AND PATRICK PRICE (JUDY AND JEFF HENLEY HALL), ALBERT VECERKA/ESTO / HALKIN/MASON PHOTOGRAPHY LLC (PENN MEDICINE RADNOR), JEFFREY TOTARO, JUDY DAVIS / HOACHLANDER DAVIS PHOTOGRAPHY (INTERDISCIPLINARY SCIENCES BUILDING), NIC LEHOUX (ARRUPE HALL)
Penn Medicine Radnor, page 47
Jeff and Judy Henley Hall: Institute for Energy Efficiency, page 44
Interdisciplinary Life Sciences Building, page 49
St. Joseph’s Arrupe Hall, page 50
More than 200 AIA Philadelphia members and friends gathered in-person at the Center for Architecture and Design and virtually around their computers for the 2021 Design Awards celebration. The program recognized the achievements of 10 local architecture firms and 5 individuals. Turn the page to learn more about this year’s honorees. >> AIA Philadelphia | context | WINTER 2022 41
THE JOHN FREDERICK HARBESON AWARD is presented annually to a long-standing member of the architectural community and is intended to recognize their significant contributions to the architectural profession and its related disciplines over their lifetime. The recipient of this award will distinguish themselves throughout their career by their contributions to the architectural profession, the American Institute of Architects, the education of the architectural community, and their contributions to the Philadelphia community at large. Nancy Rogo Trainer, FAIA, Nancy Rogo Trainer has been a member of the adjunct faculty of Drexel University since 1990. She is currently Drexel’s University Architect and Associate Vice President for Facilities, where she leads planning, design and construction activities. Prior to joining the University administrative staff in 2013, Nancy was a principal at Venturi, Scott Brown and Associates and its successor firm, providing design and planning services to colleges, universities, and cultural institutions. Her work includes campus plans, museums, student centers, and libraries – design that helps build community by integrating social, strategic, and physical goals. She was a 20122013 William Penn Foundation Affiliated Fellow at the American Academy in Rome, where her research focused on 20th century Rome’s adaption to rapid population growth. She was a member of the Philadelphia Planning Commission and Chair of the Philadelphia Civic Design Review Committee. She was elevated to the American Institute of Architects (AIA) College of Fellows in 2012 and has served on AIA’s national Jury of Fellows. Nancy is being recognized for her service and leadership to the City of Philadelphia and within the architecture community at the city, state and national level, specifically her leadership on the City’s Planning Commission and the Civic Design Review Board, as well her stewardship at Drexel University as the University Architect.
42 WINTER 2022 | context | AIA Philadelphia
The annual PHILADELPHIA EMERGING ARCHITECT PRIZE recognizes a Philadelphia firm that has been established and licensed within the past ten years for its high-quality design and innovative thought. Lauren Thomsen Design is a full service architectural design firm based in Philadelphia. Their approach to design is based on a fundamental belief in the value of space, and its ability to enrich people’s lives. They take on projects of a broad range of programs and contexts in the office, and work closely with their clients to understand context and to define the unique story of each project. They establish clear project goals, thrive on structure and good communication, and prefer to be involved from design concept through construction and occupancy. They love not only the outcome, but the process of design, and it is their goal to make sure that their clients do too. Working holistically, they lead interdisciplinary project teams to deliver interesting, sustainable, and well coordinated design solutions through the use of innovative digital tools and our expertise in material and building systems. LTD is a certified woman owned business with the WBENC and a Local Business Entity with the City of Philadelphia.
The Community Design Collaborative’s (Collaborative) ALAN GREENBERGER AWARD, named after Alan Greenberger, FAIA, and former Deputy Mayor of Philadelphia, recognizes leaders/volunteers and AIA Members for their commitment and service to the organization’s mission.
PHOTOS: DVS PHOTOGRAPHY
THE PAUL PHILIPPE CRET AWARD recognizes individuals or organizations who are not architects but who have made an outstanding and lasting contribution to the design of buildings, structures, landscapes, and the public realm of Greater Philadelphia. David B. Brownlee, is the Frances Shapiro-Weitzenhoffer Professor Emeritus of 19th Century European Art at the University of Pennsylvania. He is a historian of modern architecture whose interests embrace a wide range of subjects in Europe and America, from the late eighteenth century to the present. His scholarship has been recognized with three major publication prizes from the Society of Architectural Historians (SAH). He served the SAH as editor of its Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians in 2008-2011, when he oversaw the launch of JSAH online, the magazine’s multimedia online platform. The SAH named him a Fellow in 2015 and established the David B. Brownlee Dissertation Award in his honor in 2020.
Professor Brownlee has curated or co-curated several major exhibitions, including “Building the City Beautiful” (Philadelphia Museum of Art), “Louis I. Kahn” (Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art), and “Out of the Ordinary: Robert Venturi, Denise Scott Brown and Associates” (Philadelphia Museum of Art). His curatorial seminars have engaged students in these projects and also created several smaller exhibitions, including “Penn in the World,” co-curated with Ann Blair Brownlee (Penn Museum; tour here: https://www.penn.museum/collections/videos/video/1128 After chairing the committees that proposed the reshaping of the University of Pennsylvania’s undergraduate residences in 1997, he directed the implementation of a comprehensive system of College Houses and served as Director of the Office of College Houses and Academic Services for four years. He is a recipient of the Outstanding Teaching Award of the College Alumni Society and the University’s Lindback Award for Distinguished Teaching. Active in civic affairs, Professor Brownlee served for 16 years on the Philadelphia Historical Commission, and he serves on the boards of the Design Advocacy Group of Philadelphia, the Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia, the Athenaeum of Philadelphia, the Beth Sholom Preservation Foundation, and the Global Philadelphia Association’s World Heritage City project. In recognition of public service, he received the Wyck Strickland Award and the “Globy” Lifetime Achievement Award of the Global Philadelphia Association.
The YOUNG ARCHITECT AWARD, presented by AIA Philadelphia’s Steering Committee of Fellows, seeks to recognize registered architect(s) between the ages of 25 and 39 for their contribution to the categories of leadership, practice, and service. Nate Sunderhass, AIA, is an Associate and Senior Designer at BLTa. Nate is a graduate of University of Cincinnati and has worked at SOM in San Francisco, and Erdy McHenry in Philadelphia, before coming to BLTa. At BLTa, he has increasingly transformed the firm’s design presence in the Philadelphia community. Nate’s design leadership on several projects has borne recognition with design awards on the following projects: Lincoln Square – Multi-Housing News Bronze Medal winning mixed use and Curbed’s Best New Building of 2018; One City at 1401 Arch Street – Preservation Alliance Grand Jury Award winner; and Lancaster Square – a competition-winning, master planned compendium of four mixed-use buildings that kicks off with a deftly sited and sculptural residential building in Buffalo NY. Beyond these few examples of Nate’s project experience, which are reconstructing of BLTa’s market presence and portfolio, he has consistently complemented his several Project Managers and principals all while grooming each junior teammate for increasing responsibility within the firm. He co-leads the firm’s internal Design Review Committee, responsible for design quality of all the firm’s commissions. He holds direct responsibility for monthly Gallery events, where all staff members are invited to present their work (for the firm and/or personal interests), serving to identify and further groom talented professionals already on-staff.
The Community Design Collaborative’s PAUL SENHERT AWARD FOR COMMUNITY DESIGN, the Director of Real Estate Development for Penn Facilities and Real Estate Services (Penn FRES) and a member of the Collaborative’s Board of Directors for nearly a decade, The award recognizes preliminary design projects for excellence in design, collaboration, and community impact.
In response to the COVID-19 crisis, the Community Design Collaborative leveraged the creativity and problem-solving skills of their volunteers to create the Design Assistance In Demand (A.I.D) program. The program tackles the urgent needs of nonprofit organizations that are on the front lines serving vulnerable populations. Volunteer teams are configured to work quickly, with the goal of providing implementable designs in a week’s time. The Design A.I.D. program and the following 8 completed projects were the recipient of this year’s Sehnert Award.
• Design AID: Sunday Breakfast Rescue Mission – design solutions to help maintain social distancing while performing everyday duties.
2021 DESIGN AWARDS
Howard Lebold, President of McGillin Architecture, began his career in the Philadelphia area after graduating from the Pennsylvania State University. After a quick stint as a staff architect at Architectural Concepts, he was hired by Jim McGillin as the CAD Manager at Richard J. Cureton, AIA, PC. The recession in 1990 brought Howard into the city to work for Ueland & Junker, Architects and Planners where he eventually became an Associate. It was during this time, that Howard help found the Community Design Collaborative, serving the organization in many roles, including being one of their initial board co-chairs. In 1998, Jim McGillin convinced Howard to join McGillin Architecture as a principal, where he has worked for the past 23 years, becoming firm President, three years ago. Howard’s other professional affiliations include formerly serving as a Director in AIA Philadelphia, which led to his election into the Carpenters’ Company of the City & County of Philadelphia, where he currently serves as Treasurer. Howard is also a Leadership Philadelphia graduate, is an Elder at First Presbyterian Church in WC, and serves as Vice Chair of the Advisory Board for the Devereux PA.
• Design AID: Berean Presbyterian Church - design solutions related to circulation, use of space, seating/space layouts, visual cues and wayfinding, and beautifying spaces.
• Design AID: Nationalities Service Center - design assistance as they prepare to reopen their 4th floor facility.
• Design AID: Mr. Pizza/North 5th Street Revitalization Project re-envisioned a contactless takeout window.
• Design AID: Called to Serve CDC - feasibility of moving its emergency food distribution center to a currently unused annex at Zion Baptist Church.
• Design AID: Oxford Circle Christian Community Development Association - assistance developing outside dining options for two restaurants along Castor Avenue.
• Design AID: COVID Research for Small Businesses - performing research and creating resources to serve as a toolkit for businesses that are reopening and rebuilding.
• Design AID: HIAS Pennsylvania - assistance understanding how their brand new office space might need to be altered so that they can bring staff and clients into the space safely.
AIA Philadelphia | context | WINTER 2022 43
GOLD MEDAL AWARD
GOLD MEDAL AWARD - SUSTAINABILITY KIERANTIMBERLAKE | BUILT WITH SPECIAL RECOGNITION FOR SUSTAINABILITY JEFF AND JUDY HENLEY HALL: INSTITUTE FOR ENERGY EFFICIENCY The Institute for Energy Efficiency drives significant advances in energy technology by focusing on research that changes the way people use energy, and the way scientists and technologists think about energy. The new Henley Hall, is a 49,900 sq. ft., LEED Platinum-aspiring research and education facility with offices and collaboration spaces that anticipate emerging technologies and cutting-edge ideas. CLIENT University of California Santa Barbara PROJECT TEAM Structural Engineer: Nabih Youssef Structural Engineers, Mechanical/ Electrical/Plumbing Engineer: Buro Happold Consulting Engineers, Laboratory Planner: Research Facilities Design, Landscape Architect: The Office of James Burnett, Civil Engineer: Stantec, Construction Manager: Sundt, Code Consultant: Jensen Hughes, Acoustics: Newson Brown Acoustics, LLC, Cost Estimator: C.P. O’Halloran Associates, Inc:, Fall protection: CAI Safety Systems, Elevator Consultant: LerchBates, Vibration Consultant: Wilson Ihrig, Specifications: Wilson Consulting, Inc., Geotechnical Engineer: Fugro, FFE: Steelcase, Lighting Designer: BuroHappold, Soils and Irrigation: Sweeney, LEED Administration: BuroHappold, Photographers: Bruce Damonte and Patrick Price 44 WINTER 2022 | context | AIA Philadelphia
PHOTOS: BRUCE DAMONTE AND PATRICK PRICE
SILVER MEDAL AWARD
PHOTOS: M ARCHITECTS
SILVER MEDAL AWARD - GENERAL UNBUILT M ARCHITECTS | THE BEVERLY The Beverly is Northern Liberties’ newest addition, a Vertical Community, catering to a post pandemic society where Live, Work, and Wellness Amenities, expand opportunities for curated social interaction. From the well appointed façade, to the tailored interiors, The Beverly seeks to transport you to an urban retreat nestled in the heart of Northern Liberties. CLIENT Stamm Development Group PROJECT TEAM Structural Engineer: The Harman Group, Mechanical/Electrical Engineer: Liberty Technology Group LLC, General Contractor: Tester Construction Group LLC, Civil Engineer: Bohler
46 WINTER 2022 | context | AIA Philadelphia
CLIENT Penn Medicine (The Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania Health System) PROJECT TEAM Structural Engineer: Ballinger, Mechanical/Electrical Engineer: Stantec Architecture and Engineering, LLC, General Contractor: IMC Construction, Landscape Architect: Jonathan Alderson, Civil Engineer: Pennoni, Lighting Design: The Lighting Practice, Acoustics + Vibration: RWDI, Vertical Transportation: VDA, Logistics/ Mat’ls Mgmt: Lerch Bates, Medical Equipment: HBS, Specifications: Conspectus, LEED Sustainability: Atelier Ten, Parking Garage: THA Consulting
2021 DESIGN AWARDS
HALKIN/MASON PHOTOGRAPHY, LLC
ALBERT VECERKA/ESTO / HALKIN/MASON PHOTOGRAPHY LLC
GENERAL ARCHITECTURE - BUILT HONOR AWARD BALLINGER | PENN MEDICINE RADNOR Double the size of the existing Penn Medicine location in Radnor, the new facility provides comprehensive cancer care, including radiation oncology services and chemotherapy, as well as primary care, heart and vascular, orthopedic and neuroscience care. The clinical program includes six operating rooms and four endoscopy suites, along with full laboratory services.
INTERIOR ARCHITECTURE - BUILT HONOR AWARD EWINGCOLE | PENN SQUASH CENTER The Penn Squash Courts renovation project revitalized and reinvented an existing, anonymous mid-century brick box into a dynamic, modern home for Penn Squash and a comfortable, flexible venue for practice, recreation, and events. The intervention, which removed floors and altered structural elements to create a fluid interior, subverts the conventional “theater in the round” approach typical of collegiate squash facilities by placing a millwork island for spectating and socializing at the center of the tournament hall.
HALKIN/MASON PHOTOGRAPHY, LLC
CLIENT University of Pennsylvania PROJECT TEAM Structural Engineer: Keast & Hood, Mechanical/Electrical Engineer: AHA, General Contractor: LF Driscoll, Landscape Architect: Ground Reconsidered, Civil Engineering: Pennoni, Squash Courts: ASB Squash Cost Estimating: ICI
INTERIOR ARCHITECTURE - BUILT HONOR AWARD MGA PARTNERS | ORCHESTRAL SPACE, PUGLISI HALL, UNIVERSITY OF DELAWARE Primarily used as a rehearsal hall, Puglisi Hall events range in use from the orchestra and band to wind ensemble, jazz bands, and early music ensembles, as well as choral performances. As the first stage in a larger masterplan process to revitalize the Roselle Center, Puglisi Hall was slated for renovations to improve the acoustic, aesthetic, and functional properties of the room. CLIENT University of Delaware Facilities Real Estate and Auxiliary Services PROJECT TEAM Structural/Mechanical/Electrical Engineer: DEDC, General Contractor: EDiS Company, Acoustics: Acoustic Distinctions, Lighting Design: The Lighting Practice, A/V Design: Total VIdeo, Theatre Design: Theatre Design Incorporated
AIA Philadelphia | context | Winter 2022 47
PRESERVATION PLANNING - UNBUILT HONOR AWARD KELLY MAIELLO | JOHN COLTRANE MUSEUM AND CULTURAL ARTS CENTER SITE FEASIBILITY STUDY The Coltrane House was built in 1903. Designated as a National Historic Landmark, it is on the National Register of Historic Places and is listed on the Philadelphia Register of Historic Places. By developing this property into a world-class venue where jazz can be heard, studied, and appreciated, the Strawberry Mansion Community Development Corporation will create a gateway to the Strawberry Mansion neighborhood, contribute to its revitalization, and preserve the historic residential row’s architectural character. CLIENT Strawberry Mansion Community Design Collaborative PROJECT TEAM Structural Engineer: O’Donnell & Naccarato, Inc., Cost Estimating: International Consultants, Inc.
48 WINTER 2022 | context | AIA Philadelphia
PHOTO: BRAD FEINKNOPF
CLIENT Ohio State University PROJECT TEAM Collaborating Firm: M+A Architects, Structural Engineer: SMBH, Inc., Mechanical/Electrical Engineer: Advanced Engineering Consultants, Civil Engineer: SandsDecker, Landscape Architect: PlanIt Studios, General Contractor: Gutknecht Construction
SUSTAINABILITY - BUILT HONOR AWARD ERDY MCHENRY | FIFTH FAÇADE: FRANKLIN COUNTY EXTENSION Sited to minimize disturbance to the surrounding research fields and to align with adjacent agricultural structures, the Franklin County Extension building gives legibility to the tangible connection between environment and pedagogy while fulfilling the needs of the youth and adults it serves. Each space in the building serves a purpose that focuses on a “learn by doing” mentality. In addition to gardening and cooking, the youth learn valuable lessons in leadership, communication, mathematics, accounting, science, and technology.
HALKIN / MASON PHOTOGRAPHY, LLC
JEFFREY TOTARO, JUDY DAVIS / HOACHLANDER DAVIS PHOTOGRAPHY
CLIENT Iowa State University PROJECT TEAM Collaborating Firm: Substance Architecture, Structural Engineer: KPFF Mechanical/Electrical/Plumbing Engineer: IMEG, Civil Engineer: Snyder & Associates, Green Roof Consultant: Roofmeadow, Envelope Consultant: WJ Higgins, LEED Consultant: C-Wise, Vertical Transportation: Lerch Bates, Photographer: Peter Aaron/OTTO
2021 DESIGN AWARDS
PHOTO: PETER AARON
HISTORIC PRESERVATION/ADAPTIVE REUSE - BUILT MERIT AWARD KIERANTIMBERLAKE | STUDENT INNOVATION CENTER AT IOWA STATE UNIVERSITY The Student Innovation Center houses physical and intellectual resources from all of Iowa State’s undergraduate colleges into a single facility to enable and promote interdisciplinary exchange and collaboration. Interior spaces include a variety of fixed and flexible spaces for a variety of users, including prototyping labs, fabrication studios, and open classrooms. The project targets a LEED Gold certification — largely attributable to a dedicated outdoor air system, displacement ventilation, and high efficiency heat recovery.
GENERAL - BUILT MERIT AWARD BALLINGER | INTERDISCIPLINARY LIFE SCIENCES BUILDING The 131,000 SF Interdisciplinary Life Sciences Building defines the edge of the Quad and redevelops the Commons Plaza into a pedestrian friendly passage. The glass and brick building showcases science to the UMBC campus with research and teaching laboratories lining the north facing glass wall and classrooms and support spaces in the rear.
CLIENT University of Maryland Baltimore County PROJECT TEAM Structural Engineer: Columbia Engineering, Electrical/Mechanical Engineer: Ballinger, General Contractor: Whiting-Turner, Landscape Architect: Mahan Rykiel Associates, Civil Engineer: Site Resources, Artwork: Volkan Alkanoglu, Acoustics: Acentech, Specifications: Conspectus, Commissioning: Facility Dynamics Engineering, Cost Estimating: Forella Group, Code/Life Safety Consultant: Jensen Hughes Lighting Design: The Lighting Practice, Interior Design: PLDA, Wind: RWDI, Geotechnical Engineer: Schnabel Engineering, LEED Consultant: Sustainable Design Consulting, Consulting Engineer: WFT Engineering, Envelope: Wiss Janney Elstner Associates
GENERAL - BUILT MERIT AWARD EWINGCOLE | MSK NASSAU This new 127,000 sf building design is rooted in the farmers markets common to this area of Long Island, while the characteristics and textures of home provide the character and details within each space. Interior gardens and informal gathering spaces were created within infusion to provide visual interest to patients receiving treatment. CLIENT Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center PROJECT TEAM Structural Engineer: Silman Engineers, Electrical Engineer: EwingCole, Mechanical Engineer: Lizardos Engineering Associates, P.C., Civil Engineer: RMS Engineering, Landscape Architect: Cairone & Kaupp, Inc., General Contractor: Hunter Roberts Construction Company
CLIENT National Real Estate Advisors PROJECT TEAM Structural Engineer: The Harman Group, Mechanical/ Electrical Engineer: Concord Engineering, General Contractor: Hunter Roberts Construction Group, Interior Design: AvrKO, Lighting Design: The Lighting Practice
2021 DESIGN AWARDS
HISTORIC PRESERVATION/ADAPTIVE REUSE - BUILT MERIT AWARD BLT ARCHITECTS | STEPHEN GIRARD BUILDING CANOPY BY HILTON The Stephen Girard Building is a one-million-squarefoot, mixed-use development project along Market Street in Philadelphia. Renovated to reveal beautiful design elements that maintain its historic integrity, the former office building now operates as a 236-key franchised hotel under the Canopy by Hilton flag.
HISTORIC PRESERVATION/ADAPTIVE REUSE - BUILT MERIT AWARD BLT ARCHITECTS | ONE CITY Initially built for The United Gas Improvement Company in 1899, this fourteen-story Renaissance Revival office building served as its headquarters for 50 years. The adaptive reuse, converting office use to a market-rate apartment building, represents a transformative project for the neighborhood directly surrounding City Hall. The project converts outdated office space into modern, light-filled apartment units, bringing much-needed housing density and vibrancy to the Broad Street Historic District.
JEFFREY TOTARO, JULIE SOEFER
CLIENT Alterra Property Group, LLC PROJECT TEAM Structural Engineer: O’Donnell & Naccarato, Mechanical/Electrical Engineer: Concord Engineering, General Contractor: Clemens Construction Company, Interior Design: Eileen Tognini, Historic Preservation: Powers & Company
GENERAL BUILT - DIVINE DETAIL MERIT AWARD MOTO DESIGNSHOP | ST.JOSEPH’S ARRUPE HALL The creative catalyst for Arrupe Hall chapel was the Gregorian calendar, developed by the Jesuit priest, astronomer, and mathematician, Christopher Clavius in the late sixteenth century The design of this pendant strikes delicate balance between two sets of time scales and is the organizational anchor from which the rest of the chapel fixtures revolve around. Nestled in the dome oculus, it diffuses sunlight while creating a playful and everchanging shadow that marks the seasons as time passes us all by. In the evening hours, the pendants take on a whole new life by using it’s single light source to cast a light pattern over the ceiling.
50 WINTER 2022 | context | AIA Philadelphia
CLIENT The Maryland Society of the Province of Jesus PROJECT TEAM Structural Engineer: Keast & Hood, Mechanical/Electrical/Plumbing, Engineer: Bruce E Brooks & Associates, General Contractor: Hunter Roberts Construction Group, Lighting Design: BEAM Ltd., Civil Engineer: Stantec, Landscape Design: Stantec, Fabricator: Iron Studio and Design Ltd.
AIA PHILADELPHIA DESIGN AWARD 2021
Congratulations our partner BLT Architects, Congratulations to our to partner, BLT Architects, recipient of recipient of AIA Philadelphia Chapter’s the AIA Philadelphia 2021 Design Award for One City at 1401 Arch Street
Our Reputation Speaks for Us.
52 WINTER 2022 | context | AIA Philadelphia
Congratulations Ballinger on the 2021 Design Award from the AIA Philadelphia Chapter for the Penn Medicine Radnor project. THA is greatful for the opportunity to have been a part of this exciting project.
Congratulations to Ballinger
2021 AIA Philadelphia Design Award for Penn Medicine Radnor
JONATHAN LANDSCAPE ALDERSON ARCHITECTS
AIA Philadelphia | context | WINTER 2022 53
AIA Philadelphia | 2021 Design Award University of Pennsylvania, Squash Center
2022 BOARD INDUCTION January 13, 2022 5:30-7:30 PM A Virtual Event
1991 1991--2021 2021
54 WINTER 2022 | context | AIA Philadelphia
To register, please visit aiaphiladelphia.org. Cost is free to attend.
Congratulations to the 2021 AIA Philadelphia Design Award Winners!
Congratulations to Ballinger and all involved with the UMBC Interdisciplinary Life Sciences Building! Proud to have provided the geotechnical engineering for this award-winning project.
Electrical Life Safety www.brucebrooks.com St. Joseph’s University - Arrupe Hall Architect: Moto Designshop Photo © 2021 Nic Lehoux
Become a part of our architectural community! Joining AIA Philadelphia as an Allied Firm provides access to a large and active network of architects and design professionals committed to finding solutions and developing relationships to benefit our built environment. If you own or work for a firm in the design/building industry, join the AIA Philadelphia network. Membership is for a period of one year and begins upon receipt and acceptance of payment.
Benefits Include: Company profile on AIA Philadelphia website Share your company news on our website and in the weekly email newsletter Free/Discounted admission to AIA Philadelphia events including the Design Awards Celebration Access to business support such as health insurance, HR support, retirement plans, etc.
**Fees are not deductible as charitable contributions for federal income tax purposes.
AIA Philadelphia | context | WINTER 2022 55
Congratulations BLT & KELLY/MAIELLO ARCHITECTS 2021 Design Award Winners! One City & The John Coltrane House
Host an Event
Design the perfect event, whether public or private AIA Philadelphia Members Receive a 10% Discount off the Rental Space AIA Philadelphia Firm Members Receive a 25% Discount off the Rental Space
56 WINTER 2022 | context | AIA Philadelphia
215. 608. 7040
1319 Walnut Street Philadelphia, PA 19107
STYLE MEETS DESIGN IN PHILADELPHIA. The Brickworks Design Studio in Philadelphia is host to an array of captivating products, exclusive industry events, and expert insights from those at the forefront of design.
We are getting paid twice as fast...and there are multiple ways to accept payments.
– CoXist Studio
Trusted by building and design professionals nationwide, ClientPay is a simple, web-based solution that allows you to securely accept client credit and eCheck payments from anywhere. 22% increase in cash flow with online payments Offer clients multiple convenient payment options 62% of bills sent online are paid in 24 hours
ARCHITECT FIRM LOGO
Client Invoice #0123-A Your Client **** **** **** 9995
Try it for yourself at
Data based on an average of firm accounts receivables increases using online billing solutions. ClientPay is a registered agent of Wells Fargo Bank N.A., Concord, CA, Synovus Bank, Columbus, GA., and Fifth Third Bank, N.A., Cincinnati, OH.