• The project retains the historic facade and adds two new venues wrapped in a metalic veil activated with LED lights. Photo by Andy Crawford

Location San Antonio
Client Tobin Center for the Performing Arts
Architect LMN, in association with Marmon Mok
Design Team Julie Adams, Assoc. AIA; Matt Allert, AIA; Scott Crawford, Assoc. AIA; Rob Curran; Margaret Dusseault; Thomas Gerard; Erik Indvik; Dan Jarcho; Rich Johnson, AIA; John Lim, AIA; Lori Naig; Yoshi Ogawa; Erik Perka, Assoc. AIA; Mark Reddington, FAIA; Tricia Reisenauer, AIA; George Shaw, FAIA; Kathy Stallings, AIA; John Woloszyn, AIA; Alan Worthington. Marmon Mok: Stephen R. Souter, FAIA; Mary Bartlett, AIA; Dan Slagle; Morgan Williams, AIA; Larry Schmidt, AIA; Herbert A. Denny II, AIA; Hervey Cervantes
Photographers Andy Crawford; Mark Menjivar; LMN

The Tobin Center for the Performing Arts converts San Antonio’s historical 1929 Municipal Auditorium into the most heavily utilized performing arts venue of its size in the world. “What was intriguing to us about the project was how to take an incredible old building and reposition that into a highly flexible, adaptable performance and community space,” Mehrdad Yazdani, AIA, says.

The project preserves the building’s Spanish Colonial facade, arcades, and entry lobbies, while interweaving 183,000 sf of new amenities consisting of a 1,768-seat performance hall, 231-seat studio theater, and outdoor event plaza. A porous, metallic veil wraps the new volumes with interlocking break-form panels, clearly delineating old from new while referencing the tessellations of Spanish Colonial ironwork and textiles. Once night falls, the veil becomes a scrim incorporating programmable LEDs, which are choreographed to accompany the evening’s performance.

The design retains the original facades oriented toward the historic downtown streets and reorients the new performance hall to create new outdoor event space and public access to the Riverwalk, complete with a boat dock. “Skillfully reconfiguring the venues to have a different aspect and engage the urban environment in a profoundly new way — I think that is what is so important about the project. [That said], all the programming and the beautiful theater inside [are] expected and should be demanded of a project of this scale and scope, but the jury appreciated the urban interventions as that next layer of responsibility to the community,” Anne Schopf, FAIA, says.

The highly flexible auditorium accommodates a variety of performances through its moveable floor system and programmable lighting. The Gala floor system — the first of its kind in the United States — allows each row of seating to be moved individually, transforming the space in just half an hour to accommodate virtually any performance type. In addition to adaptable seating configurations, the auditorium can also change stage geometry, lighting, color, and acoustics to create a mood unique to each performance.

“The hall is designed to allow flexibility, so it can, in a very short time, be reconfigured to allow different kinds of events, and it’s very skillfully done as a piece of architecture. We enjoyed the way the old and new can coexist without one mimicking the other,” said Yazdani. “But, really, I think the most powerful component of the project was how the auditorium was repositioned to become a vibrant public space for the city of San Antonio.”

Anastasia Calhoun, Assoc. AIA, works at Overland Partners in San Antonio.

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