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Pelli-Designed DePaul Theatre School Opens to Great Fanfare

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Fresh on the heels of its official dedication ceremony, we dropped by DePaul University's new Theatre School for a firsthand glimpse inside the freshly-modern, 165,000-square foot facility, designed by Pelli Clark Pelli. Our guides: John Culbert, dean of the Theatre School, and representatives from consulting firm Schuler Shook. The new $75M facility embodies a forward-thinking approach to theater design and is a welcome upgrade from the Theatre School's former home, an outmoded, converted elementary school. Our tour begins in the ground-floor lobby, a bright and airy space that leads into a 250-seat thrust-stage theater known as the Fullerton Stage. The ground floor also functions as a crossroads for theater-goers and students, serving as a lounge/study area, box office, and concessions stand. Full-height glass panels offer transparency while engaging the curiosity of passersby. Before departing for the upper floors, we paid a visit to the "scene shop," an industrial-looking space with 20-foot ceilings designed to accommodate woodworking and other stage scenery fabrication techniques.

The remaining floors of the facility house a combination of classrooms, administrative offices, an outdoor patio, and a host of other specialized spaces, including a script room and costume shop. Raw elements such as glazed concrete floors and an exposed hydraulic drawbridge blend effortlessly with the building's more refined features. On the fourth floor, we encounter one of the Theatre School's signature design elements: the 100-seat black box theater. From the exterior, it appears as a white cube suffused in translucent glass that cantilevers gracefully over the entrance below. At night, it will cast a soft glow, further activating the streetscape. Our tour concludes with a gorgeous view of the skyline from a fifth-floor conference room. With its ingenious design that focuses outward rather than inward, inspiring collaboration between faculty, students, theater attendees, and pedestrians, the new Theatre School earns its distinction as the "western gateway" to the Lincoln Park campus. We can only hope its success as a performing arts venue and innovative center of learning will inspire DePaul to raise the bar architecturally as it transforms its campus in the years to come.
·Complete DePaul Theatre School coverage [Curbed Chicago]
·The Theater School at DePaul University [official]