LITTLE ROCK, AR
An existing landmark mercantile building in downtown Little Rock was selected to serve as the home of the Arkansas Rep. Two theaters were created inside the wood and brick building. The 450-seat main theater is a multi-tiered, horseshoe-shaped theater with a large stage and rigging loft. The 150-seat small theater is used for developmental work. Rehearsal rooms and offices above the theaters, production shops and load-in facilities complete the building program. The new multi-tiered theater echoes the familiar balcony of the church in which the Repertory had its first home.
Major restructuring of the building was needed to remove columns in order to provide the long-span, column-free spaces needed in the theater. Since the local building codes prohibited theaters in buildings of combustible construction, we proposed special safety arrangements that satisfied the regulatory concerns and provided safe and affordable solutions to the construction of the building. All-new exit facilities were added along with sophisticated fire detection, alarm and suppression systems. Specially designed fire-retarding treatments were applied to the wooden structural components to bring fire ratings up to an acceptable level.
Façade restoration was accomplished with ease, as the previous store-owner had covered the “old-fashioned” façade with a screen, mounted in a non-destructive manner. New parking facilities at an adjacent lot joined the theater via a bridge to the second floor. The pedestrian entrance at the street level was linked with a monumental stair to the secondary entry from the garage.
A familiar downtown building was preserved and reused as the new home of the Arkansas Rep, providing an example of successful economic rejuvenation of downtown using the arts as an economic generator of late-hours activity.