Smallwood Reynolds Stewart Stewart, Architect; Atlanta, GA
Theatre Projects Consultants, Theatre Consultant; South Norwalk, CT
2008 Gold Award - Building Design+Construction
The Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre is a new multi-use performing arts venue located northwest of downtown Atlanta, serving Broadway productions, concerts, opera, ballet, family shows, and corporate meetings. The facility is the new home of both the Atlanta Ballet and Atlanta Opera, and is the first major performing arts facility built in metro Atlanta in four decades.
At the center of the project is the 2,750-seat John A. Williams Theater – a room that deftly blends striking architectural and interior design elements, ultra-modern theater systems, and inspired acoustic and theatrical ingenuity. This opulent space is designed as a multi-purpose road house to accommodate a broad range of users. With the stage and the farthest seat in the house a mere 160 ft. apart, the room never loses its intimacy.
The main theater has a full complement of fixed and adjustable acoustical elements that allow tremendous flexibility of use, while preserving all of the room’s energy and excitement. Acoustic drapes on side and rear walls may variously be deployed or stored away to create the level of absorption desired for each performance. Additionally, acoustic reflectors are located above the room’s brushed gold and silver ceiling mesh, which forms a shimmering canopy above the audience. These elements evenly direct sound from the stage and orchestra pit areas throughout the Theatre. Feature walls that serve as backdrops to the private boxes also incorporate acoustic elements that both absorb and reflect sound. The room’s orchestra pit is a spiral jack lift equipped with movable seat wagons, making it possible to extend the stage and to convert the orchestra pit for audience seating.
The Theatre’s displacement ventilation system uses an acoustic and energy-efficient design, with 1,680 under seat diffusers supplying low-velocity air to the room. To minimize external site noise from the nearby Dobbins Air Force Base, 20-in.-thick concrete walls encase the auditorium. Four, 12-ft.-wide covered loading bays serve the Theatre, and a level, 10-ft.-wide ramp connects the scenery dock to the stage and allows direct load-in at grade. Lot space in back of the Theatre gives tractor-trailers wide berth, allowing four of the rigs to be unloaded at once.
The complex also includes dressing rooms and a dividable 10,000 sf ballroom. This impressive venue is integrated into the 88-acre complex of the Cobb Galleria Convention Center.