The Yard is a next-generation performance venue that reflects Chicago Shakespeare’s multi-faceted artistic vision. The project features a new flexible theater and entrance lobby that is connected to the existing theater, introducing Chicago to a global trend in theater architecture that focuses on flexible, adaptive, and sustainable design. The design smartly repurposes the existing Chicago Shakespeare Skyline Stage by constructing a fully enclosed, indoor theater chamber beneath the landmark white tent, utilizing the existing stage house and backstage support spaces. The year-round, flexible venue can be configured in a variety of shapes and sizes with audience capacities ranging from 150 to 850, defining the audience-artist relationship to best serve each production.
A movable set of structural audience towers create a new type of performance auditorium, one that can be adapted to the artistic vision of the director or designers. 9 new configurations can be created from the set of 9 towers, each containing 3 levels of seating. These complex structures, pioneered specifically for this design, also hold the extensive theatrical technology and connect into a network of HVAC components and sprinkler systems that will help accommodate audience comfort and safety.
The two-story lobby and reception space that connects with the existing theater has magnificent southern facing views of Lake Michigan. To mitigate glare and heat gain, a custom electrochromic façade was designed. Daylight sensors on the roof signal the glass to gradually tint as sunlight passes across its southern face. This technologically unique solution is highly sustainable as it will reduce both heat gain and cooling needs for the entire building. The design concept for the lobby interiors aims to be as flexible as the auditorium space. An open reception space accommodates various events and small-scale performances, while the furniture, including concierge desk, drink rails, and seating are all mobile. Nothing is fixed, to reinforce the flexible concept.
To assure accuracy in the design and accurately document the process, the design team evaluated the existing conditions constraints with advanced laser scan technology on the existing Skyline Stage, which comprised of raked theater seating, a stage house and a unique tensile tent structure that was built over 20 years ago. This hyper-accurate 3-D scanning/modeling method allowed for the determination of as-built clearances of the tensile tent structure, which drove the allowable dimensions for the theater shell and in turn the seating towers within. The Yard at Chicago Shakespeare is integral to Navy Pier’s Centennial Vision, a reimagining of the Midwest’s most visited leisure destination celebrating its 100th anniversary this year. The new and renovated features are designed to expand Navy Pier’s impact and audience, showcasing a vibrant cultural, environmental, educational and recreational landscape.