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Jacob’s Pillow Announces $10M Gift from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation to Build a Reimagined Doris Duke Theatre


Charcoalblue is thrilled to be part of the design team tasked with building the new Doris Duke Theatre for world-famous dance performance and education company Jacob's Pillow. Alongside Mecanoo, Marvel Architects, and Jeffrey Gibson, Charcoalblue are working closing with the team as theatre and acoustic consultants. Our team is represented by Owen Hughes as team leader, Kathryn Nolan for Theatre/Auditorium design, and Eric Magloire for Acoustics.

After the tragic loss of the Doris Duke Theatre to a fire in November 2020, Jacob’s Pillow today announces that the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation has awarded a $10 million grant —the largest received in Jacob’s Pillow’s 90-year history—towards the building of a new, reimagined Doris Duke Theatre, slated to open in 2025. The building will maintain the essence of the original Doris Duke Theatre while providing artists access to state-of-the-art technology to create 21st century works.

The new theater/studio is projected to cost $30 million, and will maintain the intimacy of the original theater while at the same time providing a makerspace with a digital foundation for artists seeking to integrate various technologies into live performance or create works that are native to the digital realm. It will restore a second indoor theater space for Jacob’s Pillow’s annual summer Dance Festival alongside the flagship Ted Shawn Theatre, and provide year-round studio space on the Pillow campus, in addition to the Perles Family Studio, which is home to the School at Jacob’s Pillow.

Details about the scope, scale, and features of the new theater will be made available in 2023. The new theater at Jacob’s Pillow will be one of the very few theaters in the world built specifically for dance; the Pillow’s historic Ted Shawn Theatre, opened in 1942, was the first performance space in the United States designed and built exclusively for dance. Netherlands-based architecture firm Mecanoo, led by their renowned Creative Director and Founding Partner Francine Houben, is serving as the lead architect for the new building project, in partnership with New York-based architecture firm Marvel as the U.S.-based architect of record and landscape designer. Theater, acoustic, and experience consultants Charcoalblue are supporting the project.

Jeffrey Gibson, Choctaw/Cherokee, is serving as a consultant on the building's relationship to the site and Indigenous design values, a key element of the building’s design. The Pillow seeks to honor the building's context on the ancestral lands of the Muh-he-con-ne-ok, or Mohican peoples, who are now known as the Stockbridge-Munsee Community and reside in Wisconsin. Gibson has been participating in regular design sessions and has helped steward stakeholder engagement with Indigenous community members to seek feedback on the evolving design.

The Doris Duke Theatre was built in 1990 as one of three primary performance spaces on Jacob’s Pillow’s 220-acre campus in Western Massachusetts. For 30 years, it was a beloved blackbox theater and incubator for groundbreaking artists including Reggie Wilson, Michelle Dorrance, and Kyle Abraham, as well as the place where international artists including Black Grace, Danish Dance Theater, and Roy Assaf Dance made their U.S. debuts. The cause of the November 2020 fire was declared undetermined by state and local officials. The remains of the theater are currently on display as part of an exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City through Jan. 1, 2023. The new theater will be built in the same location as the former Doris Duke, and construction is anticipated to be completed in 2025.

Jacob’s Pillow intends the reimagined Doris Duke Theatre to be a multi-use venue and future-forward performance space that makes it possible to shift the relationship between performers and viewers. The design will celebrate the Pillow’s vernacular architecture without replicating it. The reimagined Doris Duke Theatre will be an environmentally sustainable prototype for a 21st-century cultural facility that will remain relevant for future generations, able to honor the Pillow’s reputation as a stunning site for performances while creating a new landmark on the campus that upholds and celebrates the site's diverse history and responds to the values of the Pillow’s Indigenous inhabitants. In addition to supporting a world-renowned cultural program, the new building will afford opportunities for education about the earth and land, social diversity, and the meaning and functions of culture in America well into the Pillow’s second century.

For more information, visit the Jacob's Pillow website.

Images courtesy of Jacob's Pillow.

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