2017 AIA Awards – Interior Architecture

Firm: Studio Gang

Owner: Writers Theatre

Location: Glencoe, Illinois

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.

Additional information

Acoustical Consultant: Threshold Acoustics

Cost Consultant: Venue

Engineer - Civil: SPACECO, Inc.

Engineer - MEP/Fire Protection: dbHMS

Engineer - Structural: Halvorson and Partners

Engineering Specialist: Peter Heppel Associates

General Contractor: W.E. O’Neil Construction

Graphic Designer: Thirst

Landscape Architect: Coen + Partners

LEED/Sustainability Consultant: WMA Sustainability Solutions Group

Lighting Consultant: Lightswitch Architectural

Owner’s Counsel: AMS Planning & Research Corporation; VMS LLC

Theater Consultant: Auerbach Pollock Friedlander

Timber Specialist: Trillium Dell Timberworks


Hagy Belzberg, FAIA (Chair), Belzberg Architects, Santa Monica, California

Jodi R. Ernst, AIA, Universal Studios, Orlando

Karen Fairbanks, AIA, Marble Fairbanks, Brooklyn, New York

Paula Peer, AIA, Trapolin-Peer Architects, New Orleans

Jim Poteet, FAIA,Poteet Architects, LP, San Antonio

Image credits

WritersTheatre 01

Steve Hall © Hedrich Blesssing

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Steve Hall © Hedrich Blesssing

WritersTheatre(32) 03

Steve Hall © Hedrich Blesssing

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Steve Hall © Hedrich Blesssing

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Steve Hall © Hedrich Blesssing