The first historical renovation of a performing arts venue to achieve a Platinum LEED certification from the US Green Building Council, the Gerding Theatre at the Armory is the new home of Portland Center Stage in Portland, Oregon. Completed a few years ago, this project is of ongoing interest as it has attracted groups of people interested in sustainable design from across the country, as well as international delegations from Russia, Belgium, and Hungary. It was also named one of the top ten green projects by the American Institute of Architects and won an Urban Land Institute Award in 2007.
Known as the “greenest” theatre in America, the $36 million Gerding Theatre at the Armory includes two performance spaces: a main stage space with 599 seats and a studio theatre with a flexible configuration that seats up to 200. Additional facilities include a rehearsal hall, costume shop, dye and crafts area, dressing rooms, and administrative offices. The features that make it so green include the use of recycled materials, energy efficient heating and cooling systems, and the capture and re-use of rainwater.
The challenge was renovating an 1891 Armory building into this two-theatre complex. “We put 50,000 useable square feet into a 20,000 square foot box and we did it without touching the roof or footings,” explains Rose Steele of Landry and Bogan Theatre Consultants, who worked on the project with Alan Beard of GBD Architects and Tobin Cooley of Listen Acoustics. Hoffman Construction, was the general contractor.
“We couldn't even enlarge the doorways, which meant all the equipment, including excavators, had to come in and out the existing openings. The contractor described it as building a ship in a bottle,” Steele adds. “The building had rubble foundations which meant the basement excavation had to stay six feet away from them, and the timber roof trusses were a key historical element so the view of them had to be preserved—plus they couldn't take any additional load.”
The stage lighting systems are by ETC. The main theatre has 364 2.4 kW and four 6.0 kW stage lighting dimmers, plus 12 2.4k house light dimmers, plus non-dims, cue lights, and a distributed Ethernet system. The lighting console is an ETC Obsession II 1500.
The studio theatre has 186 2.4 kW stage lighting dimmers and six 2.4kW house lighting dimmers, plus non-dims, cue lights, and distributed Ethernet system. The lighting console is an ETC Obsession II 750. Lighting gear includes over 300 ETC Source Four ellipsoidals in various degrees, some with City Theatrical drop-in iris, plus 125 Source Four pars, 40 6-inch Selecon Acclaim Fresnels, 12 TMB Pro-Can Mini-Par, PAR20Short, 24 L&E Mini Strips, 2 Lycian Super Arc 1266 follow spots, 20 Wybron CXI Color Scrollers, six GAM Twin Spin II Indexable Gobo Rotators, two High End Systems Data Flash, two GAM Film/FX, and 16 GAM “Stick ups.”
The main theatre has 46 line sets, installed by Stagecraft Industries, of Portland, OR. A series of variable acoustical curtains in the main theatre were fabricated and installed by Stagecraft, using fabrics by J.B. Martin. The seating in the studio theater is reconfigurable, using a system of platforms manufactured by Secoa.
A “crown jewel” of the Brewery Blocks redevelopment project in Portland, the Armory’s renovation has helped in the revitalization of the Pearl/River District, with a near-term economic benefit of $14.7 million to the community and a projected long-term impact of $100 million in new economic activity over the next decade, while at the same time helping the city retain its urban landscape.