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A timber-backed glass facade provides transparency, acoustical isolation, and resiliency for a historic theater complex in the nation’s capital.
When the Mead Center for Performing Arts in Washington D.C. hired Vancouver-based Bing Thom Architects to double the institution’s square footage without disturbing two historic theaters designed by treasured architect Harry Weese, it was clear to firm principal Michael Heeney that standard solutions would not suffice. For one, the theater facilities were insufficient and outdated. More troublesome, however, was the fact that passenger jet liners taking off and landing at Regan National Airport across the Potomac River were so loud they were interrupting performances. The architects had to find a solution to mitigate this cacophony both for the existing structures as well as for the expansion—a new theater called Arena Stage.
“We had to achieve acoustical separation and isolation from exterior noise in a way that was respectful and maintained the integrity of the original structures,” Heeney told AN. Building off an approach that originated from a project in Surrey, British Columbia, the design team decided to wrap the triangular-shaped complex in glass with timber column supports, topped off with a 500-foot cantilevered roof. With the help of structural engineers at Fast + Epp and facade consultancy Heintges, the team extrapolated the Surrey solution to provide even greater transparency for the existing Weese theaters, Arena Stage, and a variety of mixed use spaces totaling 200,000 square feet. Read More