Flexibility is key at Forbes Center for the Performing Arts
Open just a few short weeks, the Forbes Center for the Performing Arts is receiving high praise for its design having scooped a prestigious 2011 Merit Award from the United States Institute for Theatre Technology - one of only four projects in the nation to do so. The recognition is well deserved as this facility is a technical achievement in stagecraft, having met the challenge of how to design two arts centers with different needs, one for music and one for theatre and dance, without compromising the functioning of either.
Designed by local architect Hanbury Evans Wright Vlattas + Company with Performance Architecture and Theatre Projects, the new Center replaces an antiquated multipurpose auditorium and an experimental black box theatre with a single structure that houses five venues. By accommodating all five spaces under one roof, visitors can now immerse themselves in the broader range of arts performances offered at the University while musicians and artists have more opportunities to cross paths in the hope of forging meaningful connections that could lead to new types of performances.
The highly flexible 186,000 sq ft facility houses two distinct arts centers linked by a shared lobby. The Dorothy Thomasson Estes Center for Theatre and Dance accommodates three venues; a 450-seat proscenium theatre, a 200-seat dance theatre and a 150-seat studio theatre. To give students the ability to mount a wide array of productions, it is has a flexible proscenium theatre with a modified thrust stage that will allow productions to extend into the seating area.
The studio theatre is designed in much the same way, with lots of flexibility built in that allows it to be configured in proscenium, end stage, thrust arena and flat floor arrangements. Likewise, The Shirley Hanson Roberts Center for Music Performance has been designed with the utmost flexibility. It houses two venues; a 600-seat concert hall and a 200-seat recital hall, both of which have acoustic and staging flexibility to accommodate a wide range of music from large orchestras to smaller pop and folk concerts.
The task of fitting the building into the campus and making it visitor-worthy was the charge of architect Hanbury Evans Wright Vlattas + Company. Site circulation is organised around a pedestrian tunnel under Main Street that connects the building to the main campus and provides a basis for safe crossing. The building features soaring floor-to-ceiling glass lobbies, comfortable seating with ample legroom, and upgraded audience amenities.