Arts at the Allegheny

James
Wednesday 24 Feb 2010

New college building provides inspiration for creative collaboration

Vukovich Center for Communication Arts is dedicated to teaching theater, television and related disciplines at Allegheny College, a small liberal arts college with a strong theater program. Designed to enhance collaboration across the communication arts disciplines, this new 40,000 sq ft facility includes rehearsal and instructional spaces, technologically-advanced video production facilities, a 250-seat theater for hosting performances and public events, as well as a variety of spaces that promote informal interaction and creative collaboration.

The building was conceived as a teaching theater, with a deliberate absence of barriers between 'front of house' and 'back of house' spaces, which function as an educational tool to de-mystify the process of theater production. The lobby opens to a double-height production corridor, which provides entrances, views and natural light directly to the 'back of house' spaces such as scene shops, costume shops and dressing rooms. This corridor also facilitates the movement of large set pieces and other theater equipment through the building.

The crescent-shaped proscenium-style theater brings the audience close to the stage, fostering an intimate relationship with the performers. The traditional proscenium theater layout was adapted to create a flexible performance space that enables actors to enter and exit either backstage or through the audience, creating an engaging and participatory theater experience.

A raised outdoor terrace along the south façade overlooks the quad and continues to blur the distinction between inside and outside. In the east, the building walls partially enclose the terrace, forming an exterior courtyard that has been embraced by the students as a place for impromptu performances and rehearsals. This central outdoor gathering space is extended to the building interior by means of a glazed curtain wall, whose transparency is underscored through the use of low-iron glass. Comfortable indoor-outdoor furniture reinforces the continuity of space and invites students, faculty and visitors to linger and share ideas with each other.

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