in glencoe, a suburb 20 miles north of chicago, studio gang has completed the design of a performing arts center for a popular theater company. the building forms the new and expanded permanent home of writers theatre, an established organization that plays to an audience of 35,000 patrons each season. with its transparency and flexibility, the scheme is intended to energize daily life in the town, creating an open, welcoming space to bring the community together.

a public place of gathering anchors the theater, serving as a lobby, as well as an informal location for performances, rehearsals, and audience outreach programs. this central volume connects two venues, a 250-seat main stage and a 99-seat black box venue, as well as rehearsal rooms and other public amenities. above, a second-floor gallery is structured by timber vierendeel trusses and a lighter wood lattice hung in tension from the primary structure. this elevated walkway provides views toward glencoe’s downtown district, an adjacent lake, and a nearby grove.

performance spaces throughout the design are intended to maximize the sense of intimacy between actors and audience. in the larger venue, tribune seating is liberated from the walls, allowing for a range of innovative staging opportunities enhanced by a fluid transition from theater floor to performance area. referencing the history of the company, bricks reclaimed from the woman’s library club (the theater’s original home) form a patterned back-of-house acoustic screen that diffuses and reflects sound. the smaller black box venue can be customized to host a wide variety of performances. meanwhile, a rooftop pavilion and a green roof offer additional event space.

project team:

management counsel: AMS planning & research corp
theatre consultant: auerbach pollock friedlander
landscape architect: coen + partners
MEP/fire protection engineer: dbHMS
structural engineer: halvorson and partners
lighting consultant: lightswitch architectural chicago
engineering design specialist for grand gallery walk: peter heppel associates
security/IT consultant: premiere systems
civil engineer: SPACECO, inc.
architect: studio gang architects
graphics designer: thirst
acoustical consultant: threshold acoustics
cost consultant: venue consulting
contractor: w.e. o’neil
LEED/sustainability consultant: WMA consulting engineers