2017 AIA Awards – Interior Architecture
Eschewing standard protocol for theaters, which often requires opaque volumes that are closed off from their surroundings, Writers Theatre’s design allows it to serve as both a stunning venue and a hub of creative energy that resonates with the village-like city of Glencoe, Illinois.
Visitors entering the theater are greeted by a light-filled, double-height lobby with seating that offers views of the local landscape. Serving as a multipurpose space for educational programming, performances, and other events, acoustic panels and theatrical lights supplement the lobby’s flexibility. Nearby, the box office and concession stands, clad in wood hewn from the site, play the role of furniture elements.
The theater’s transparent exterior features sliding glass doors that can be opened for outdoor performances and festivals, allowing creativity to flow from the theater and into the community. A canopy walk, which hangs from wooden trusses by wooden battens, rings the lobby and serves as a gathering space before and after performances.
Writers Theatre’s two performing spaces—a 250-seat main stage and a 99-seat black box space—boast clever stage and seating configurations that enhance the immersive experiences that happen within them. In the main theater, patrons are seated in communal clusters, deepening the intimacy—a hallmark of Writers Theatre productions since they began in the back room of a bookstore—between actors and audience.
Through its design, the architects were able to maximize the potential of a 21st-century theater company that values the intimacy it is well known for while allowing plenty of elbow room for growth.