- Owner: Villanova University
- Architect: Voith & Mactavish
- Engineer of Record: O’Donnell & Naccarato
- General Contractor: L.F. Driscoll Company
- Project Size: 84,000 ft 2
- Project Cost: $50 Million
- 2023 PCI Design Awards Theater Structure Honorable Mention
Villanova Performing Arts Center
When planning to construct a new performing arts building, Villanova University weighed the many options for construction materials. As part of the University’s project to transform a previously underutilized parking lot into a multi-use area, including student housing, retail, and dining, the performing arts center acted as the crown jewel of the development. Through this development project, the University intended to provide the local metropolitan community an opportunity to experience new forms of art and culture, while also using the facility as a hands-on learning experience for theatre students. To achieve this vision, the structure needed to house a full-size theater, along with studios and classrooms, and provide adequate acoustic isolation between the spaces. Villanova is known for its Gothic-style architecture across campus, so the new design also had to complement the aged architectural style of its surroundings. Creating precast panels with plant-installed stone could meet the aesthetic and functional needs of the university with lower costs and construction time than a traditional stone façade.
Key Project Attributes
- Precast concrete provided more consistency, dimensional stability, ease of installation, details, and cost savings than could have been achieved using another building material.
- The precast concrete panels with inlaid stone blend into the architectural aesthetic of the campus.
- The precast concrete radius panels were used to create a rounded entry plaza that welcomes the community.
The John and Joan Mullen Center for the Performing Arts is the last in a series of planned projects along Lancaster Avenue. The goal was to create a venue that would give the local community an opportunity to experience new forms of art and culture, as well as a facility where theater students could experience hands-on learning. The Villanova campus is known for its Gothic-style architecture, and the performing arts center’s design complements the traditional style of surrounding structures. Precast concrete panels with plant-installed stone met the aesthetic and functional needs of the university at a lower cost and faster construction time than could have been achieved with a design featuring a traditional stone facade.
It was important for on-site construction to take place quickly to avoid disruption to campus activities. Construction and precast erection had to be thoughtfully planned around the school’s academic calendar. The general contractor had to stockpile the excavated soils on site which left limited space for onsite equipment and materials. High Concrete Group was required to adhere to a strict “just-in-time” delivery policy for materials and equipment. Because of this, no other building material or methodology could have been used in these same conditions. Installation of theater equipment required careful planning and coordination between trades. There was also the challenge of creating a façade that would match the stylistic details of both new and old existing buildings. The school could have built the performing arts center with traditional masonry, but precast better met the aesthetic and functional needs of the university with lower costs, labor, and lead time so the new theater could begin operation as soon as possible.
The performing arts building was completed in precast concrete with less time and money than a traditional stone façade. Finished panels, with plant-installed stone, allowed erection to take place efficiently and accelerated the remaining construction process. The performing arts center’s two main performance spaces include a 400-seat proscenium-style theatre with tailored acoustics, state-of-the-art theatrical lighting and modern technology. This space also accommodates cultural events such as concert series, University-wide lectures and major event screenings for both the local community and the student base. The other performance venue is a 200-seat courtyard theatre that includes technologically-advanced lighting and sound equipment. Both theaters open into a double-height lobby that serves as a pre-function space. Perhaps the most unique feature of the performing arts center is the main theater’s “proscenium-style” seating—the traditional arrangement of a stage separated from the audience by a picture-frame-like opening. Building the other side of the proscenium involved a sequence of thin, cantilevered sections across several stories and layers of seating. Clad in fieldstone with limestone trim, the new performing arts center and its rounded entry plaza anchor an important gateway to the University’s campus. The finished project even earned a LEED silver certification for its reflective roofing, green roof over the main theater, low emitting finishes throughout, and a highly-energy efficient HVAC system
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