Campus News

Memorial Hall Renovation Design Receives Award

Story posted December 03, 2001

The 2000 Memorial Hall renovation project has received national recognition. On September 28, 2001, the firm of Grieves, Worrall, Wright & O'Hatnick (GWWO), Inc., was awarded the Maryland Society of the American Institute of Architects' Merit Award for Architectural Excellence for the Pickard and Wish Theater project.

In making the award, the jury described the project as having "[a] clear and consistent esthetic that works well and allows the existing building to stand with stature. Green glass and metal is carried through into development of the performance spaces."

Memorial Hall was originally dedicated in 1882, served as a Civil War Memorial, and housed lecture halls. The neo-gothic granite building was converted to house a 600-seat theater in 1955. An unfortunate result was the blocking out of the building's arched windows. As time passed and the College grew, the building became inadequate to accommodate the expanding needs of the Theater & Dance Department.

The challenge of the renovation project was to functionally meet the needs of Theater and Dance (by inserting professional-grade modern theater facilities), while aesthetically revitalizing the north end of the campus, all the while maintaining the historic fabric of the existing building, and being sensitive to the surrounding campus structures and the neighboring First Parish Church. As then-President Robert Edwards said during the building's dedication ceremony, "Joining the 19th century, a well-rooted granite structure, to a new glass and steel building with different expansion and contraction coefficients was not an easy task."

GWWO's plan called for the renovation of the existing 18,000-SF building and the design of an 18,000-SF addition. In addition to full renovation, and safety and technical upgrades, Pickard received new side balconies, making the theater more intimate. Four steel columns below the theater were relocated to create a clear-span rehearsal room. In the Memorial Hall mansard roof area, trusses were modified to create a clear-span dance studio. Full acoustical isolation between theaters and adjacent spaces was achieved.

The new double-height Drake Lobby was designed to link to and expand the existing, renovated lobby. Additionally it provides access to two levels of the new experimental Wish Theater, and the orchestra level of Pickard. Wish Theater was designed with a mobile two-part telescopic seating system that can be rearranged for end stage, thrust stage, arena stage, runway stage and other formats as required.

GWWO is a full-service architecture firm located in Baltimore, Maryland. The firm specializes in the planning and design of cultural and educational facilities, with an emphasis on design excellence. Their experience spans 30 years.

The firm's other award-winning projects have included Princeton University's McCarter Theater and Alexander Hall, Baltimore's Center Stage Theater, the Walters Art Gallery in Baltimore, the Brandywine River Museum in Chadds Ford, and visitor centers at the Everglades National Park and Harpers Ferry National Historical Park.

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