TheatreSquared’s new 50,000 SF home unites two states-of-the art theatres, eight artist apartments, a rehearsal space, offices, education and community spaces, on-site workshops, outdoor terraces at three levels, and an always-open café/bar at the active corner of West & Spring Street.
The new TheatreSquared building in Fayetteville, Arkansas provides a permanent home for Northwest Arkansas’s only yearround professional theatre. The theatre company (commonly known as T2) currently creates nationally acclaimed productions that reach 45,000 patrons each year and has a significant educational outreach program that gives students across the region access to live performances and leading arts-based learning tools.
The building also plays a significant role in extending the arts and cultural program of the city as whole. Situated a block South of Dickson St, Fayetteville’s main commercial artery, and in between the Walton Arts Center and the city public library, the building pulls the public South down Fayetteville’s emerging Arts Corridor. A planned park across the street from the theatre will replace an existing parking lot and further energize this portion of the city allowing the theatre to engage pedestrians and bikers, families and individuals, and the youth and adults alike.
The design was the result of an intensive options based and collaborative process with the client. Design principles, derived from the company’s vision statement, were established early on and carried through at every stage of design. As an example, the concept that the performance space is the “beating heart of the building” resulted in the concrete envelope of the theatre being left exposed and visibly expressing itself on all sides – from the exterior, into the commons, and into the back-of-house corridors – letting passersbys, patrons, and actors locate themselves in relation to this building “heart.
To further the concept of theatres as a place for storytelling, the materials used also tell stories. The various lives that wood may possess – as a raw material, a concrete texture, charred, stained, veneered as plywood, chopped into OSB, as furniture, or walls, or floors – all appear within the building. A story of construction processes is also told - the pine boards used to make the boardform concrete envelopes were cleaned, stained, and repurposed as interior finish materials in the Studio and Rehearsal performance spaces.
The building “commons” – the space at the corner of the building that links the three performing venues and that faces this future park – opens to the street and invites the public in, serving as a kind of living room for the city. At the core of TheatreSquared’s ethos is the outlook that theatre ought to be enjoyed by everyone. Frequent public programming within the Commons, and a cafe set to be open daily is intended to broaden the theatre-going audience and entice both residents and visitors to make the space their home.
Performance capabilities extend out of the theatres and into the commons with audiovisual and stage lighting systems integrated into the public spaces increasing both performance flexibility as well as the client’s ability to draw the public in. Low-iron glass surrounds the Commons increasing transparency and connectivity to the street. Exposed structural steel and building systems lay bare the workings of the building and encourage the perception of the space as approachable and unpretentious.
We created a state-of-the-art mainstage and studio theatres capable of mounting complex, technically-challenging productions situated within acoustically soundproofed envelopes, a crucial consideration taking into account the nearby active railroad tracks.
TheatreSquared’s previous venue was abnormally wide and shallow resulting in elaborate and extensive stage sets and a simultaneous intimate audience experience. This extra-wide stage shape was replicated in the new main theatre while the audience capacity was dramatically increased by adding a wrap around, two row deep, balcony level while the back row of the orchestra level became only one row deeper than it was in the original space. Audience members enter at the stage level, the same level as the actors – another experiential element that was preserved – further heightening the up-close and personal theatre experience that has become a hallmark of TheatreSquared’s performances.
The Rehearsal Room, a space which can be flexibly used as an event space as well, projects over the Northwest corner of the building. Clad in charred wood with a big picture window that looks North towards the downtown, the inner workings of the building, and the process of mounting a show, are put on display for all to see. The Eastern spine of the building houses the guts of T2’s operational needs including staff offices, dressing rooms, a wardrobe shop, scene and prop shops, and a green room.