Memminger Theatre
Charleston, South Carolina

Cultural and geographical situations comprise a cultural Landscape where people and human activities are located, why they are located in particular locations, and what significance these observed arrangements represent. Spatial practices within a cultural landscape reveal relationships among history, geography, social patterns, race, class, gender, and power. For 17 days and nights each spring, Spoleto Festival USA fills Charleston, South Carolina's historic theaters, churches and outdoor spaces with over 120 performances by renowned artists as well as emerging performers in disciplines ranging from opera, theater, music theater, dance, and chamber, symphonic, choral, and jazz music, as well as the visual arts. Spoleto USA and how the festival has been a showcase for the arts and revealed the poetics of the cultural landscape that comprises Charleston.

In the design for this project, the intersection of the cultural landscape and urban landscape provided the opportunity to create an operatic "play-room" for cultural and artistic production on the interior and an "urban room" (or garden) that has become an important civic space contributing to the life of Charleston not only during the festival period but through out the year.

The existing building was built in 1938 as part of the Works Progress Administration and designed by the architect Albert Simmons. The design for the new addition and renovation is sympathetic to historic character of the existing building and was approved by the Charleston, South Carolina Board of Architectural Review. The design transformed the existing building into a black box theater with new stage floor, catwalk, HVAC and plumbing, and electrical systems as well a the insertion of a suspended steel framed glass tread feature stair and glass elevator at the lobby.

Sustainable design principles were deployed throughout the project including a geo-thermal HVAC system, steel framed green wall, as well as low LOV materials, low flow fixtures, and high efficiency lighting systems.

The project scope included: Renovation of the existing building, to create a large flat floor "black box theater", Maintain character of exposed interior surfaces and structure, Add catwalks, theatrical electrical and sound system infrastructure, Convert the balcony into a sound and light control area, Add a one level scene storage wing, next to the stage, with a loading area, and actor's entry, Add new code compliant public toilets in the basement, Fully modernize the mechanical, electrical, plumbing and fire protection systems, Upgrade the building to be fully building code and ADA compliant, Repair and renovate miscellaneous exterior conditions as required, Create an outdoor courtyard.