Quinn Evans Architects, Design Architect; Ann Arbor, MI
TowerPinkster, Project Architect; Grand Rapids, MI
Schuler Shook, Theatre Consultant; Chicago, IL
As the largest community theatre in Michigan, Grand Rapids Civic Theatre (GRCT) reaches over 90,000 patrons annually. Its School of Theatre Arts offers a full range of acting, dance, and technical theatre classes, as well as a summer camp and intensive workshops. Kirkegaard worked with Quinn Evans, TowerPinkster, and Schuler Shook to evaluate the company’s historic 900-seat theater and adjacent 19th-century buildings and strategize a significant multi-phase renovation.
The renovations of the theater focused on the audience’s experience. A glassy multi-story extension of the lobby improved circulation and provided a visual focal point for patrons approaching the building. Although the extension had a small footprint, it nearly doubled the usable lobby space.
Within the audience chamber, the design team’s goal was to make major improvements while restoring and enhancing the historic character of the theater.
Audiences in the balcony experienced focused reflections from the vaulted ceiling that made even projection from the stage impossible. Adding convex plaster ribs to the ceiling spread this sound out, eliminating hot spots without stealing energy from the room.
Curtains at the lower side walls were replaced with convex reflective surfaces to offer more support to performers. Farther back in the room, a new side wall with a subtle sweeping curve eliminated confusing flutter at the back of the main floor.
The second balcony was entirely rebuilt—in wood to control its weight—to provide proper sight lines to the stage. Kirkegaard detailed the new balcony floor to control footfall noise. The wall at the back of the first balcony was reshaped to work with the new ceiling under the second balcony, creating a more “open” acoustic for audiences under the balcony.
Quiet new air conditioning, isolated toilets, rehearsal rooms, and improved audio-video rounded out the renovation.
The Civic Theatre was renamed the Meijer Majestic in honor of Fred and Lena Meijer’s lead gift.