Arena Stage Theater Facade
In the sea of concrete and granite that people have come to expect from buildings in Washington, D.C., a new structure showcasing wood stands out.
When Arena Stage at the Mead Center for American Theater reopened in 2010, it was the first modern structure to use heavy timber components in the United States' capital. It was also the first project in the U.S. to use an efficient hybrid wood and glass enclosure to envelop two existing structures.
Although the timber-backed glass façade supporting a steel roof was a complex design, the decision to use wood was an easy one. “Like most arts projects, especially non-profits like Arena Stage, budget was very tight," said Michael Heeney, principal and executive director for Bing Thom Architects of Vancouver, BC. “We didn't have money for finishes, so the structure had to be beautiful, and wood made perfect sense. Yet in the end, wood ended up doing triple duty. We used it to hold up the roof; we also used it to hold up the glass. And, it provided the final finish for the space. Wood was very cost effective in all three respects."
This custom timber structure supports a 650 foot long curved cable-suspended glazed façade. Each of the 18 massive elliptically-turned Parallam columns are tipped with a custom shaped 350 lb casting and tilted at 4 degrees from vertical. The 50- 60 foot high columns not only support the suspended array of Parallam glazing members, but also a 500 foot long steel roof structure with 90 foot cantilever. The relationships on this project were also unique, in that Gerald Epp was Structural Engineer of Record for the entire Arena Stage Theatre project, and also subcontractor (through StructureCraft) for the facade structure.