Designed to fully compliment the newly completed Victoria Gardens Regional Shopping Center, the Rancho Cucamonga Cultural Center is configured to maximize access to community theater and library, host cultural events, and provide entertainment venues to town center retailers and merchants. Designed by local firms WLC Architects and Pitassi Architects, the facility includes a performing arts center, full-service library, and meeting hall on a three-acre campus. The 560-seat playhouse has an in-house professional theater company and hosts family-friendly performances, concerts, and comedy shows as well as a theater arts academy. Inspired by great and classic works of literature and theater, the architecture is intentionally varied, sometimes diverse, sometimes whimsical, all the while seeking to remind the frequent patron or new visitor of the forms and features evident in the cultures and places found in favorite stories and plays.
A sense of permanence is found within the outer slate stonework that wraps around the building and makes blended patterns from afar, sometimes in contrast to the softer stucco colors found elsewhere on the building enclosure. Curving roof forms and deep clerestory recesses further accentuate the sweeping and animated building forms. Wrapped around a spiraling golden mean, an Imagination Courtyard is designed as a harbor of civic and historical imagery which serves as the main entrance. A monumental proscenium arch anchors the entry and is squarely set on axis with the southerly Victoria Gardens Town Square. The building positioning creates a post-card view of the new building skyline as it caps a palatial vista seen from Town Square to the south.
While bold in its architecture, the building softens with the evening dusk and seems dismissive — as a humble footstool might appear to the majesty of the San Gabriel mountains. All the while, there is an uncanny familiarity with this place that speaks to other times, imagination, and change. Massive oversized books, sculpted with titles meant to inspire, are placed within the exterior facades as if they might be read by the giants they would seem to serve. The rounded form of the Children's Story Time Theater becomes a lighthouse as it juts from the plaza’s inner harbor. These are the elements of the design which bind it together, which speak the language of this place and invite wonder and discovery.
The main entrance connects to a colorful interior Main Street which is woven with natural daylighting to connect the building's major interior spaces. Somewhat like New York's Times, Main Street takes on a cosmopolitan appearance within the theater main lobby, all the while acting very much like a real stage set. Stage lighting, rigging, and catwalk systems support an inner-city skyline, which like the exterior architecture, can reflect changes in time, seasons, and mood. The theater lobby is designed so that literary actors may appear to their audience "off-stage", and can also be used for university-level teaching environments. Within the Library, Main Street becomes a bit more suburban as it links a variety of "generational learning neighborhoods." These neighborhoods are grouped to appeal to the specialized literacy interests of various age groups.
According to Kevin McArdle, then Community Services Director for the City of Rancho Cucamonga, "In the park and recreation industry, the CPRS awards program is the highest recognition our agency can receive. We are honored to have been recognized in six out of seven categories. WLC/Pitassi Architects, Inc. in a collaborative effort, created a wonderful facility for our community - actually working with us to design the building from the inside out. They started with the anticipated programs and offerings envisioned for the facility and designed the Cultural Center for our unique integrated community usage." Stated McArdle, "We are thrilled that CPRS recognized our marketing efforts with multiple awards, our goal was to provide materials and information as exciting and lively as the facility itself with all its wonderful offerings for the community to enjoy." The project received the 2007 People's Choice Award from the Inland Chapter American Institute of Architects, was featured as one of the top 10 global retail centers by the Urban Land Institute, and received six out of seven top honor awards from the California Parks and Recreation Society.
In 2009, the project was cited by the Urban Land Institute as one of the “Ten global developments apply creative approaches to bringing together retail and entertainment, offering lively gathering places in an effort to lengthen patrons’ visits and encourage cross-pollination among uses.” includes a performing arts center, a full-service library, and a meeting hall on a three-acre campus. The 560-seat playhouse has an in-house professional theater company and hosts family-friendly performances, concerts, and comedy shows as well as a theater arts academy. The lifestyle center’s developer, the Cleveland-based Forest City, contributed $5.7 million for the construction of the center and is supplying additional operational funds over a five-year period; other sources included a state library grant, a community development grant, and redevelopment agency tax allocation bonds.