The Strand - 2016 Global Awards for Excellence Winner
June 23, 2016
Location: San Francisco, California
Developer: American Conservatory Theater
Designer: Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP (SOM)
Site Size: 0.30 acres
The Strand, an American Conservatory Theater (A.C.T.), transformed an abandoned, century-old movie theater into a highly visible, alternative, experimental performance space for San Francisco’s preeminent nonprofit theater company. The redefined space houses an intimate 285-seat proscenium theater, educational facilities, a public lobby and café, and a black box theater and rehearsal space. All of the elements needed for a modern theater are overlaid on top of the raw backdrop of the original 725-seat cinema, presenting an inspiring juxtaposition. Located between the city’s booming retail district and Civic Center, in the midst of fast growing development, the restored theater represents a key component to the revitalization of this long disinvested part of the city. The redevelopment creates 20,000 sq. ft. of flexible retail, educational, and performance space. The estimated total cost of the project is $34.4 million.
To support A.C.T.’s diverse programmatic needs, the single auditorium cinema was transformed into three flexible spaces: a three story lobby and gathering space with a ground floor café, a proscenium theater with moveable risers, and a black box theater for rehearsals, classes, workshops, and events. The centerpiece of the lobby is a suspended, perforated LED screen that recalls the building’s long history as a cinema. The nearly 500 sq. ft. screen displays video and images that extend the theater experience into the lobby before performances, as well as serves as an exhibition space for local video art. Since opening in May 2015, A.C.T. has garnered nine national, regional, and local awards for its architecture, structural engineering and graphic identity. The Strand received the American Institute of Architects’ National Honor Award for Interior Architecture, the National Council of Structural Engineers Association’s Excellence in Structural Engineering Awards, and Communication Arts’ Award of Excellence. Declared one of the ten best arts centers by Architectural Record, the Strand has been profiled in a number of the world’s top architectural publications, including The Architect’s Newspaper, Architectural Record, and Interior Design.
The Strand provides A.C.T. with a highly visible, easily accessible space to permanently house its education and community programs, and expand its performance repertoire to include more small-scale, contemporary works. Located in a long disinvested inner-city neighborhood, the project’s site makes it a crucial lynchpin between ongoing business and residential redevelopment to the southwest, existing cultural and civic institutions, and the booming retail and tourism destinations to the northeast. The Strand is an inclusive and civic-minded expansion of San Francisco’s cultural offerings, providing increased opportunity for diverse residents and visitors to enjoy a variety of arts experiences in an affordable and accessible space. By cultivating the arts, activating an abandoned building, and stimulating economic development, the renovation project has been critical to the ongoing success of the Office of the Mayor’s Central market/Tenderloin Strategy for neighborhood revitalization. The artistic programming at the Strand has brought more than 50,000 patrons to a once desolate block on Market Street.