Detroit’s infamous theater-turned-parking garage sold at auction

Detroit's crumbling Michigan Theatre has fallen into disrepair since its 1926 construction. (Hermann Schleicher-Roevenstrunck via Flickr)

Detroit’s Michigan Theatre has fallen into disrepair since its 1926 construction. (Hermann Schleicher-Roevenstrunck via Flickr)

Detroit’s Michigan Theatre remains iconic, but not for the reasons that made it so during its early 20th century heyday. Now the opulent 1926 concert hall holds parked cars instead of theater-goers. Will it remain a symbol of Detroit’s struggle to recover from long-term disinvestment, or could it become emblematic of the city’s resilience?

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Bittertang Farms’ organic amphitheater sprouts from straw in Lake Forest, Illinois

Buru Buru amphitheatre at the Ragdale Ring in Lake Forest, Illinois. (Bittertang Farms)

Buru Buru amphitheatre at the Ragdale Ring in Lake Forest, Illinois. (Bittertang Farms)

Work wrapped up this summer on Bittertang Farms’ installation at Ragdale, the nonprofit artists’ community in Chicago’s North Shore suburbs, and true to its plans the straw amphitheater springs forth from a lush hillside in Lake Forest, Illinois.

Continue reading after the jump.

Post-Recession, Las Vegas’ Builders are “Cautiously Aggressive”

Las Vegas is bouncing back from the recession with new construction, including Gensler's 2013 renovation of The AXIS Theater inside Planet Hollywood. (Ryan Gobuty for Gensler)

Las Vegas is bouncing back from the recession with new construction, including Gensler’s 2013 renovation of The AXIS Theater inside Planet Hollywood. (Ryan Gobuty for Gensler)

“It’s a fun time in Vegas right now, with the economy up,” said Beth Campbell, principal and managing director of Gensler’s Las Vegas office. Downtown is being reborn, thanks in no small part to Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh’s multi-million dollar investment. The Strip, too, is booming—see the High Roller observation wheel, which opened on March 31. At the same time, the spendthrift breeziness of the pre-recession years is gone. “Everyone is coming back to life, but with a refined focus and purpose,” said Campbell. “I would say the clients and developers are cautiously aggressive…they still want to grow, still want to reach for the sky…But they’re really focused on how they’re applying [their money] to make these projects happen.”

Continue reading after the jump.

Bittertang Farms sculpts hay into a North Shore theater for 102nd Ragdale Ring competition

The 2014 Ragdale Ring Design is scheduled for a public unveiling on June 14. (The Bittertang Farm)

The 2014 Ragdale Ring Design is scheduled for a public unveiling on June 14. (Courtesy Bittertang Farm)

Studio Gang’s treehouse revamp of Writers Theatre isn’t the only North Shore performance space to dance with organic forms. Designers Michael Loverich and Antonio Torres of The Bittertang Farm won $15,000 to install a temporary stage for performances in Lake Forest, where renderings show sculpted piles of hay and wavy architectural forms that “melt into the existing landscape.”

Continue reading after the jump.

REX’s Joshua Prince-Ramus Unwraps His Approach to Facade Design

REX's Media Headquarters Buildings feature retractable sunshades based on a traditional Arab Mashrabiya pattern. (Courtesy REX)

REX’s Media Headquarters Buildings feature retractable sunshades based on a traditional Arab Mashrabiya pattern. (Courtesy REX)

Joshua Prince-Ramus, principal at REX, has a bone to pick with modernism and its legacy. “For the last 100 years, architecture’s been involved in a silly tension between form and function,” he said. While high modernism privileged function over form, some of today’s top designers argue that architecture is about aesthetics and not much else. REX has a different take: architecture, the firm claims, is both function and form. “We really believe that architecture can do things. It’s not just a representational art form,” said Prince-Ramus. “We talk about performance. Aesthetics are part of performance [as is function.]”

Continue reading after the jump.

Writers Theatre raises $22 million to build Studio Gang–designed complex in Chicago

Midwest
Thursday, November 14, 2013
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Studio Gang Architects' design for Writers Theatre, an intimate theater space on the North Shore of suburban Chicago. (Studio Gang Architects)

Studio Gang Architects’ design for Writers Theatre, an intimate theater space on the North Shore of suburban Chicago. (Studio Gang Architects)

Roughly one year after it announced a fundraising campaign to reinvent its home with a Studio Gang–designed “cultural destination,” Writers Theatre in suburban Glencoe said Wednesday it had raised $22 million of the $28 million needed to build the structure on Chicago’s north shore. Read More

After 200 Years, London’s Old Vic Theatre Considers a Facelift With Help From Kevin Spacey

International
Tuesday, October 22, 2013
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The Historic Old Vic Theatre in London is Set for Necessary Restoration. (Courtesy Jim Lonwood / Flickr)

London’s Historic Old Vic is Set for Necessary Restoration. (Courtesy Jim Lonwood / Flickr)

Venerable old institutions in England are looking for a fresh look these days. The nearly 200-year-old Old Vic Theatre in London is the latest to make plans for a much-needed facelift. The institutions artistic director, actor Kevin Spacey, is committed to bringing the structure into the 21st century through refurbishment of the current building and expansion into a newly acquired adjacent space.

Continue reading after the jump.

Wakeup Sleepy Head, It’s Time For Design at Depaul.  Wakeup Sleepy Head, It’s Time For Design at Depaul DePaul University lays claim to many superlatives, like Largest Catholic University and other stuff. We have one: The Largest Collegiate Architectural Snoozefest. That is until now. On the heels of the University of Chicago’s Logan Center for the Arts, DePaul recently cut the ribbon on its new Theater School, designed by Pelli Clarke Pelli. The new building is quite literally—excuse the cliché—a breath of fresh air, clad in materials other than brick veneer. (Photo: Jeff Goldberg / ESTO)

 

Welton Becket’s Santa Monica Civic Auditorium Says Goodbye

West
Tuesday, July 2, 2013
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(Courtesy Santa Monica Civic Auditorium)

(Courtesy Santa Monica Civic Auditorium)

Welton Becket’s 1958 Santa Monica Civic Auditorium, once a beacon of midcentury optimism, this weekend shuttered its doors. The bending, intricately ornamented auditorium hosted several Academy Awards in the 1960s, as well as concerts by the likes of Eric Clapton, Frank Sinatra, James Brown, Ella Fitzgerald, Prince, and Bob Dylan.

But the facility recently fell on hard times, as bands gravitated to larger venues (leaving it mostly hosting trade fairs), and as a planned $52 million renovation was recently cancelled when California abolished its Community Redevelopment Agencies.

Santa Monica Civic, a working group strategizing the venue’s future, told the LA Times that it will take several months to develop a new plan for the landmarked structure, including film screenings, live theater, or even restaurants.

LMN Architects’ Collaborative Sound Cloud

Fabrikator
Friday, May 17, 2013
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Brought to you with support from:
Fabrikator
Fabrikator
LMN Architects designed a high-performing ceiling canopy that unifies the many features of traditional theatrical and acoustic systems. (courtesy LMN Architects)

LMN Architects designed a high-performing ceiling canopy that unifies the many features of traditional theatrical and acoustic systems. (courtesy LMN Architects)

A system of 946 unique panels will produce optimal acoustics and aesthetics at the University of Iowa’s new School of Music.

For a 700-seat concert hall at the new School of Music at the University of Iowa, Seattle-based LMN Architects wanted to design a high-performing ceiling canopy that would unify the many features of traditional theatrical and acoustic systems. The result is a 150-foot-long by 70-foot-wide surface composed of 946 suspended, intricately laced panels that incorporate complex, interdependent, and at times conflicting systems—including lighting, theatrics, speakers, sprinklers, and acoustical functionality—in a unified architectural gesture.

“The system is sculptural for sure, but it had to conceal structural truss work, which was a major cost savings as opposed to building an acoustic container,” said Stephen Van Dyck, a principal at LMN Architects. The design team worked with both parametric digital and physical models to coordinate the structural system with the acoustic, theatrical, audio/visual, lighting, fire, and material elements of the canopy. “From Day One, it was a digital model,” he said. “We needed a smaller physical model to get everyone’s head around making this happen physically. A three-foot room model has a big impact on ability to conceive.” LMN fabricated the scale model, as well as a few full-sized components, on the firm’s 3-axis CNC mill. Read More

An Afterlife for DeKalb’s Egyptian Theatre

Midwest
Thursday, March 21, 2013
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The Egyptian Theatre in DeKalb, Illinois. (Courtesy Egyptian Theatre)

The Egyptian Theatre in DeKalb, Illinois. (Courtesy Egyptian Theatre)

Northern Illinois may not have pyramids (you’ll have to go to elsewhere in the Midwest for that) but the Egyptian Theatre continues Pharaoh Ramses II’s reign over downtown DeKalb, IL. As this post in PreservationNation describes, the movie house has undergone a series of restoration efforts since it landed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978.

Designed by architect Elmer F. Behrns in 1929, the theater’s pharaoh sculptures, scarab stained glass, and winged orb marquee fell into disrepair by the late seventies, when the theater closed. It reopened in 1983, but renovations continued until recently. In the last six years building rehabilitation and maintenance exceeded $1.5 million, but creative fundraising—the owners, Preservation of the Egyptian Theatre, Inc., sold the theater’s original seats when they were replaced in 2011 and even started running popular haunted tours—have helped fill the financial gap.

The building owners hope to continue renovations, including replacing the carpeting and installing air conditioning.

More photos after the jump.

Chicago’s Portage Theater Gets Landmarks Nod, Still Faces Uncertain Future

Midwest
Tuesday, March 12, 2013
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portage_theater_01

The Portage Theater, a 1920s-era theater on Chicago’s northwest side, escaped acquisition by an Albany Park church. (Eric Allix Rogers / Flickr)

Portage Park’s historic Portage Theater won a unanimous recommendation from the Chicago Commission on Landmarks last week, but the 1920s movie house isn’t out of the woods yet.

After a neighborhood church announced it would withdraw its bid to acquire the northwest side cinema, preservationists celebrated. But a September acquisition by Congress Theater owner Erineo “Eddie” Carranza left some of them with lingering doubts. WBEZ’s Jim DeRogatis reported theater owners Dennis Wolkowicz and Dave Dziedzic may have been served with a 60-day eviction notice, noting the Portage has no new bookings after mid-April.

Continue reading after the jump.

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