Title page for ETD etd-04282006-124449

Type of Document Master's Thesis
Author Ruhland III, James Randolph
URN etd-04282006-124449
Title 4 Theatres...
Degree Master of Architecture
Department Architecture
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Thompson, Steven Ross Committee Chair
Dunay, Donna W. Committee Member
Pittman, V. Hunter Committee Member
Rott, Hans Christian Committee Member
  • Theatre
  • Town Hall
  • Blacksburg
Date of Defense 2006-04-17
Availability unrestricted

This Project concludes in a folio of drawings. The object of study is a renewal of Blacksburg’s old Town Hall on Church Street. The proposed new program for the existing structure is a studio theatre, addition and working areas.

The fundamental purpose of this project is to renew Blacksburg’s vision of ‘Theatre’ through the building and use of a small theatre house.

Suggesting to completely change what is now thought of, but rarely considered, as a local cultural icon almost automatically brings high level of local conservative scrutiny. The wonderful instance about this project is that by merely suggesting a renewal of this magnitude could spur an incredible debate from the word, “Action.”

The point is not that the entire production be reduced to a marketing stunt. The point is this: Building is, in part, a public spectacle which is charged by local levels of involvement. This spectacle component to building can be highlighted or subdued through several mediums, but the overarching message is the same.

A projected future for the existing icon is a series of four theatres.

The first, and foremost, theatre is the town itself. By covering the building, scaffolding and construction staging area with a veil, the existing structure is reduced to a larger-than-life object within the townscape. The new object rests on the platform of Blacksburg during its own construction stage. While not within the scope of this project, it is entirely legitimate that the veil itself could be designed through a local competition. The purpose is to gather curiosity by wrapping the building.

The remaining three theatres are more explicit.

The centerlined façade may be removed, revealing a covered entry similar to a typical stage set. The articulation of the walls, ceiling and floor resemble a much larger room with an acute perspectival illusion. This is the main street level entrance to the building. The new façade-room may also be used as a stage. The intersection in front of the building could be blocked off from vehicular traffic to provide house seating for a public performance.

The Studio theatre is the main “stage” which could be used to facilitate a majority of productions. This abstract cubic space may be manipulated as the house manager and production director see fit. This space is surrounded by occupiable marginalized mechanical volumes. These volumes are for any equipment, or individuals, necessary to maintain the illusion of the theatre. The finished surfaces of the studio should be completely assembled from panels and modular. Every surface, at every moment, in the Studio may be changed.

An addition lies directly adjacent to the Studio through a roll-up garage door. This two-story area provides work areas, and rehearsal space in addition to storage. This area may also be manipulated as the house manager and production director see fit. The finished floor of the addition is shared with the large public parking lot behind the existing building. This back lot is also shared with a number of local businesses, and one of Blacksburg’s underground streams. This bowl-like space is the lowest elevation near the town’s original sixteen squares. The back doors of the Shop are oversized to receive any large shipments or materials and/or equipment. When completely open, these two sixteen foot high doors double as a proscenium stage. The pair of doors, in cooperation with an overhead canopy, resembles a typical theatre stage opening. This stage could be used for less formal occasions.

It has been worthwhile to remember that a studio theatre type depends on maintaining a high level of abstract qualities, tremendous versatility and the ability to have the performance an the audience on the same level. The inherent difficulty is that a useful theatre space tends to find values and orientations that carry it away from total abstractness and versatility.

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