Coca-Cola Stage at the Alliance Theater
At the heart of a celebrated arts center campus in Atlanta, the Coca-Cola Stage at the Alliance Theatre has been transformed, demonstrating what is possible when a multidisciplinary team works in concert. Perfectly tuned acoustically to deliver world-class performances to its patrons, the project also moved the 650-foot chamber 10 feet closer to the stage and challenged historic notions of segregation and discrimination by removing the separation between the balcony and orchestra. As an additional unifying feature, all seating zones are accessible from every entrance within the chamber.
Recognizing that the project should be both compelling and warm, the team listened intently to what the client hoped to achieve. The artistic director shared with the team several objects from the theatre’s holdings, including a bowl turned by the celebrated Atlanta-based Moulthrop family. After digesting the director’s descriptions of the bowl—a warm, wooden, shared space with no sense of hierarchy—the team quickly oriented the project around the form.
From the outset, the project was also guided by a desire to design for equitable communities.
Given a bowl’s curved form, the team knew that mimicking its curves could prove to be a costly endeavor for the theatre. It engaged a wood sculptor specializing in steam-bent oak millwork and adopted the process to create many of the proposed architectural details on a one-to-one scale. The collaboration between architect, artist, and fabricator led to the beautiful steam-bent millwork guardrails and balconies that adorn the theatre. Through the merger of handcraft and mass production, the team clearly communicated the theatre’s blended concept.
From the outset, the project was also guided by a desire to design for equitable communities. Across the American South, theatre balconies are vestiges of racism for many people of color. As the team moved through the design process, the idea emerged to blend the balcony and the orchestra to create a space with no separation and provide circulation between both seating heights. Box seating has historically included separate access through a segregated lobby sequence, but in this project, it exists as a continuum to create a democratic space.
Recognizing that the project should be both compelling and warm, the team listened intently to what the client hoped to achieve.
The team also focused its design on better accommodating differently abled patrons, who are often tucked into less exciting seating separated from the rest of the audience. This project challenges that standard and provides a performance space where everyone can have a unique experience. Ambulatory-assisted seating is provided at the center of the orchestra, upper orchestra, and balcony seating, and two of the box seating elements feature ambulatory, full-access seats. The theatre’s high-caliber acoustics ensure that no one seat is better than another and that the entire audience enjoys a dynamic experience.