Ballet Memphis had outgrown its current space and wished to move from a suburban location to a performing-arts district undergoing revitalization in Memphis. The Company strives to perform an inclusive message about culture and arts and to uplift the community through transparency, connectivity, and education.
The new, civic-oriented facility is an extension of the Company’s mission. With large windows and public courtyards, the building contributes to the already thriving urban district. Formerly a hotel with parking in the front, the new site design inverts the original scheme. The building is designed to engage the public in movement, culture, and connection to the community. It houses rehearsal space for the professional company, a dance school for over 200 children, and community dance and pilates classes. The largest rehearsal studio also doubles as a performance venue.
The copper screen sits at the historic street edge—enhancing the urban experience within an entertainment district—while complying with current city codes and setbacks. The building’s façade offers opportunities for the community to participate in the organization, via exterior courtyards, retail experiences, and a café, and a costume shop featuring a display window/mini-performance place.
The courtyard spaces offer opportunities for the community to engage with the school, and also break the scale of the large building down to suit the context. The exterior form, composed of layers of glass, perforated copper, and volumes of contrasting metal evokes the character of a music box. Gauzy screens and courtyards that penetrate the building mass both mask and reveal the activity of dancers within. Warm and neutral materials alongside cool colors are also used to frame and display activity and the dancers.
Dance and architecture share a focus on movement, space and time. Celebrating these disciplines, through this civic project, enhances its growing entertainment district and the adjacent residential neighborhoods.