After operating out of two separate leased spaces in Illinois, USA for the past 23 years, Writers Theatre now has a new home, designed by Studio Gang Architects, featuring the 250-seat Alexandra C. and John D. Nichols Theatre and the 99-seat black box Gillian Theatre. Auerbach Pollock Friedlander, Performing Arts/Media Facilities Planning and Design, provided theatre and audio-video consulting services for the project, in collaboration with Studio Gang Architects and Threshold Acoustics. In 2009, Auerbach Pollock Friedlander began working with Writers Theatre and AMS Planning & Research on program development and site evaluation. Two years later, the firm participated in the architect selection process that resulted in the appointment of Studio Gang Architects by Writers Theatre.
Founded in 1992, Writers Theatre‘s original location was a 50-seat theatre in the back room of a bookstore, Books on Vernon, and their second venue, which opened in 2007, was created in a large room leased from the Woman’s Library Club of Glencoe. This partnership worked well for both organizations, however the aging Library Club building was badly in need of repairs. Ultimately, a new agreement between the groups allowed the Library Club building to be demolished to make way for the new venue which includes meeting space for the Woman’s Library Club in addition to two performance spaces for the Theatre. Bricks from the old building were used for interior walls and an acoustic shell in the larger of the two new theatres. With sustainability as a consideration in the design, the new facility is targeting LEED Gold certification.
The vision for the new Writers Theatre was to increase capacity while maintaining intimacy and the close audience-performer connection found in their original, smaller spaces. Auerbach Pollock Friedlander worked closely with Studio Gang Architects to realize this goal by creating new, state-of-the-art performance spaces reminiscent of the Theatre’s former venues. The size of each venue has essentially doubled, yet each theatre’s form and intimate feel is similar to Writers’ original spaces.
In an effort to not detract from the striking architecture, the team at Auerbach Pollock Friedlander had to remain sensitive to integrating technology and theatrical equipment seamlessly into the theatres. The firm worked hand-in-hand with the technical staff at Writers Theatre to develop systems that meet their current needs, as well as allow for future growth.
“The six-year process of developing and constructing new facilities for Writers Theatre was truly a labour of love,” said Auerbach Pollock Friedlander’s Principal in Charge, Steven Friedlander.
“We are so pleased to be part of equipping the company with a facility that will support their excellent work and provide audiences with superb theatrical experiences for many years.”
The site offers a “theatre in the park” atmosphere with public parks to the east and west of the building. This park-like setting is optimized with rooftop terraces, a green roof and a lobby that is essentially a large glass box with a slender wood structure maximizing the views in all directions.