Sunday, January 28, 2007

Desert part of Peoria theater

[Source: Cecilia Chan, Arizona Republic] -- From its shiny copper rooftop to its beige concrete masonry base, Peoria's modernistic theater is a visual product of its desert environment. The 20,000-square-foot Peoria Center for the Performing Arts is expected to debut Feb. 10 with a special two-day showing of Tea for Three. The main theater seats 280 and the black box seats 80. "It was a great, fun building for us," said the projects' lead architect Ronald Reed, principal of Westlake Reed Leskowsky. "There is nothing else I have done that looks like this building." The architectural firm got its start in Arizona when it renovated the historic Orpheum Theatre in Phoenix. Peoria awarded the company a contract in 2002 from among 10 others that applied to do the job. The firm stood out from the others based on its experience with both community theaters and large-scale theaters as well as its success with historical preservation or renovation, according to city spokesman Grady Miller.

Reed incorporated ground-faced blocks that give the $12.9 million building a granitelike fa├žade, colored like the desert floor. The building's origami-shaped roof - with several jutting angles coated with copper - evokes the outlines of distant mountains. Reed said the roof also helps to diminish the height of the stagehouse, which reaches almost 50 feet tall, so it doesn't stick out like a sore thumb in the neighborhood. At night, the roof gives the illusion it is hovering above the building, thanks to lights that will shine through glass that runs around the lobby between the roof and masonry.

"In a project like this, whether the city is looking for it to be a catalyst for economic development or creation of a more cohesive downtown area, it is to do something that is really unique that speaks about the client and the location which this is sitting and becomes sort of a magnet in its own right and make a statement," Reed said. "But at the same time you shoot for being a good neighbor. We very much wanted it to be a building where the coloration and material were appropriate and felt right in downtown Peoria." The functionality of the theater - how the city intended to use the facility, how often it was used and its target audience - also played equally into Reed's design. The materials chosen for the building lend itself to aging gracefully, such as the copper for the roof, Reed said, adding the metal was historically mined in Arizona. Over time, the reddish-colored metal darkens and eventually turns to a copper patina, which keeps the building looking fresh with its changes, he said.

[Note: To read the full article, click here. Photo by Michael Schennum.]