Harlem School of the Arts Theater


Design Studio Spring 2014
Duration: 8 Weeks
Collaborators: Individual
Critics: Elisabetta Terragni

The Harlem School of the Arts Theater project seeks to provide a formal performance venue for the students of the
adjacent Harlem School of the Arts. Located on St. Nicholas Avenue between 145th and 146th St., the Harlem School
of the Arts existing theater building is currently closed by the Building Department for violating various codes. The school
has been lacking a proper space where the students can hone their skills since the theater was shut down. They have
been trying to raise funds in order to properly renovate the theater and get the students’ performance venue back up and
running and improve on the school’s identity within the community.

The proposal aims to create a flexible and acoustically optimal performance space as well as introduce new program for
the theater and the school; including rehearsal spaces and studios, administrative and staff offices, and a gallery and
outdoor patio area. Ultimately, the new building would create a functional performance space for the school, and create a
strong presence in the community to encourage local youth to pursue their interests in the arts.

The theater features a steel structural frame with two cores that provide lateral bracing. The overall structural design
needed to be able to cantilever the theater volume over the front of the building and span over the large rocky cliff behind
the building. The base and entry are clad in brick to root the building in the character of the surrounding Harlem brick
buildings. The second and third stories feature a curtain wall system, while the theater geometry is clad in concrete panels
to give it a “floating” appearance. This “floating” effect seeks to emphasize the theater’s geometry as the primary
programmatic element of the building.

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