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Jacob’s Pillow Announces Building Plans For the Reimagined Doris Duke Theatre


Jacob’s Pillow has revealed building plans for the reimagined Doris Duke Theatre, a flexible theatre on the site of the original Doris Duke Theatre, which was lost to a fire of undetermined cause in November 2020. Charcoalblue have been working alongside Jacob's Pillow, Mecanoo, Marvel, and Jeffrey Gibson on the project, bringing our expertise to the theatre and acoustic design.

The new theatre’s design embraces the Pillow’s diverse history to create an accessible and inclusive space for dialogue, collaboration, and education. The new Doris Duke Theatre will maintain the intimacy of the former studio theater, while incorporating a new digital backbone. The ability for the facility to adapt to different programmatic needs as well as future technical upgrades will be key to the theater’s purpose as a makerspace and digital lab, and will ensure long-term resiliency and future growth.

Take a 360 tour of the building and the theatre here.

Rendering depicts a possible production design inside the theatre performance space in the new Doris Duke Theatre. The new theatre will be technologically equipped to ensure that the creative appetites of artists will be served in the decades to come.

Renders courtesy of Mecanoo Architects and Marvel.

The reimagined Doris Duke Theatre will be approximately 20,000 sq. ft., compared with the former Duke’s roughly 8,500 sq. ft. footprint. The design allows for multi-use flexibility, so that the building can support performances, events, residencies, and more, sometimes simultaneously. The theatre will seat up to 230 patrons in the main performance space, with an array of seating and stage configurations.

The building will feature two lobbies with sliding doors, which will create multiple entrances and exits to the building. The lobby on the west side of the building will serve to welcome visitors in from the spacious artist quadrangle, and will also provide a covered and ventilated space for pre-show talks alongside a new exhibition space. The lobby on the east side of the building will serve as a warm-up and rehearsal space for artists, and can also host receptions and meetings as needed. Rainwater will be collected from the extensive green rooftops of the building to be reused for flushing toilets and irrigation. This embrace of the site and nature, balanced with a need to push the boundaries of dance, embodies the ambition for the theater and captures the magic of performing at Jacob’s Pillow.

Rendering depicts an aerial view of the Jacob’s Pillow campus, with the planned new Doris Doris Theatre on the site of the original Duke studio theater.

Renders courtesy of Mecanoo Architects and Marvel.

“The design creates a year-round space that will serve as an incubator for a new generation of artists seeking to integrate technology into live performance and create art native to the digital realm."

Pamela Tatge, Executive & Artistic Director, Jacob's Pillow

The robust infrastructure of the theatre will include high-speed internet, as well as flexible locations for stage management and sound, and a dedicated video room for documentation and livestreams. The theatre will also have improved lighting and audio capabilities, with an efficient LED stagelighting system as the baseline, and with the ability to add incandescent fixtures. Many windows and skylights (with darkening capabilities) throughout the building will connect the theatre with the surrounding campus and landscape.

The building’s infrastructure will support technological capabilities including the use of a digital spatial audio system with live tracking of dancers correlated to moving sound images, infrared camera tracking of performers for interactive video content, and live dance performance interaction with recorded/projected dance content. Hard-wired connectivity between buildings will enable real time collaboration across Pillow venues using simultaneous filmed performances.

Rendering depicts a possible setup for activities and events inside the new Doris Duke Theatre. In addition to summer Festival performances, the new building is designed with a year-round, community focus and ease of use for special events.

Renders courtesy of Mecanoo Architects and Marvel.

Safety, comfort, and accessibility will be improved for audiences, artists, and staff compared with the former Duke. This will include the addition of catwalks for easy technical installation, additional bathrooms, and an enlarged green room and dressing rooms for artists. New seating arrangements will include mezzanine access to the top of the retractable seating to allow for late seating and more accessible seating options. Additional functions include a support box office and office spaces for staff. The facility will easily adapt to suit diverse artistic and programmatic needs, fulfilling its purpose as a makerspace and digital lab, and ensuring long term resiliency and growth.

For more on the Doris Duke, read the full press release from Jacob's Pillow.

Rendering depicts a ground-level view of the planned new Doris Duke Theatre, viewed from a perspective right outside the Perles Family Studio. The new building will feature two lobbies with sliding doors, which will create multiple entrances and exits to the building. The lobby on the west side of the new Duke is visible in this image.

Renders courtesy of Mecanoo Architects and Marvel.

“I can’t overstate the importance of this sort of technologically-forward space for the dance field right now, dance artists sorely need the sorts of space, tech, and expertise that the Pillow is assembling. This is where the future of the field will come from.”

Sydney Skybetter, Choreographer and Founder of the Conference for Research on Choreographic Interfaces, Brown University

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