It is on the campus of Menlo-Atherton High School, surrounded by the semi-rustic environment of Menlo Park. The project’s highly conceptual design was inspired by the surrounding heritage valley and coastal oak groves on campus.
The interior of the centre is dominated by a five-hundred seat auditorium which can be optimized acoustically for either dramatic performances or musical events. It includes a 19.8m (65-foot) high loft, fly gallery, stage house, orchestral lift, practice and academic meeting spaces, a “green” room and a cafeteria/warming kitchen.
With the objective to bring music and drama to its students and the surrounding community, this 2,880m2 (31,000 sq. ft.) performing arts building is located on the campus of Menlo-Atherton High School, an arts-oriented high school. It features broad, over-hanging eaves – designed to complement existing low-slung classroom buildings and monumental structural trees – which echo the entry grove of historic oaks.
The building is configured to serve both a formal, regional audience and a more casual group of parents and students. A direct response to the community’s revered heritage oak trees established the axial alignment and served as the governing metaphor for the building’s structural, volumetric and aesthetic development.
An energy saving H-Vac system, which distinguishes between the rarely occupied auditorium and the heavily used support facilities – scenic shop, rehearsal room, and community space – is programmed to harvest cool or warm air and direct it to the occupied portions of the facility. Operable windows allow for heating and cooling, while occupancy sensors keep lighting needs regulated indoors and out.
An under floor plenum delivers conditioned air directly to seated theater patrons by means of registers under each seat. This technique avoids the waste associated with conventional systems by providing tempered air at the occupied zone. Sustainable, yet visually rich materials such as exposed steel – have been carefully detailed with laser cut precision to form the public spaces in the lobby and theatre
Variations in the relationship of the folded planes of the roof to the surrounding landscape provide opportunities for student meeting places and mechanical equipment. To the south, steel struts surmounting massive concrete columns complement the oaks facing the lobby, and support the exposed structure of the roof above the depressed entry courtyard sheltered by a branching structure designed to inspire spontaneous outdoor performances.