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Thursday, March 12, 2009

Francis Marion University's Performing Arts Center, Florence, United States

Holzman Moss innovate with 5 minute unfolding stage

Marking the latest trend in performance hall innovation is Francis Marion University's Performing Arts Center (which just broke ground on 30 Jan). Designed by Holzman Moss Architecture, a firm known for its expertise in theater design, both the external and internal renderings show a colour and light-infused beauty, but it is the technology which makes the theatre remarkable.

This multi-purpose, $32.8 million, 68,000 sq ft center features a push-button operated, revolutionary mechanized acoustic stage shell that enables one person to transform the stage from housing a symphonic performance to hosting a theatrical production in less than five minutes - a transition that normally takes a large crew many hours to perform. Made from donated oriented strand board (OSB), a recycled material, this radical new stage shell design is both economically and environmentally sound.

Finished, stained, OSB glulam members extend across the ceiling and around the sidewall to form the theater shell. The rectangular geometry of the shell telescopes outwards to envelope both the stage and audience in a single, arching wooden structure. Sweeping bands of blue-stained OSB acoustic wall panels arranged in a herringbone pattern add to this expansive effect. Their intricately configured, dramatic patterning is heightened by linear LED lighting, which bathes the main hall in streams of warm light. Vertically-placed acoustic fins accent the balcony loggias, which are composed of regional pine board stained a golden brown. Their overlapping form mimics the draping effect of the dark gold stage curtain.

Given today’s economic downturn, any future performing arts center building plans will certainly call for improved technology and multi-functioning design that radically reduces building and operating costs. Holzman Moss Architecture’s low-tech design fix could provide other future performing arts facilities throughout the world the ability to afford the same flexible staging options found in such high-profile venues as the Radio City Music Hall (designed by HMA’s precursor firm, Hardy Holzman Pfeiffer Associates).
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