Flexibility without neutrality: a modern theatre with character

  • Type Cultural,
  • Location Omaha, Nebraska
  • Area 13,500 s.f.
  • Status Built
  • Date 2015
  • Collaborators

    Min | Day

BLUEBARN theatre translates the upstart scrappiness and risk-taking ethos of its namesake theatre company into built form. The project began with a donated plot of land and an open minded developer. The theatre is a new arts hub in a rapidly changing district, anchoring a multi-part urban development which includes a mixed-use residential building (Boxcar 10) and a privately owned public park. The BLUEBARN itself is a hybrid proscenium, black box, and environmental theatre with a direct connection to an outdoor performance space. The remaining program is organized concentrically around the house and stage with the back-of-house operations arranged against the party wall with Boxcar 10. The building’s materiality is explicit and unexpected: burnished unit masonry, reclaimed wood, custom brick, weathering steel sheet metal cladding, and a custom fabricated exterior screen of welded rebar. In collaboration with the client, we commissioned artists Michael Morgan, Jim Woodfill, Daniel Toberer, and Chris Kemp to design and build integrated functional building elements.

To purchase a booklet on our work with BLUEBARN Theatre visit Actual FACT Books.

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To the south: Boxcar 10, a mixed-use building containing a restaurant and loft-apartments. To the west: ‘Green in the City’ a public open space for which we orchestrated a design competition won by el dorado, inc with Urban Rain Design.

“A good theatre is the connective tissue between the work it contains and the world in all its messy complexity.” - Joshua Dachs

The three related projects transform the relationship of public and private space towards a collective urbanism.

North elevation

Custom hybrid cladding system of welded rebar held in front of Corten sheet metal siding

Towards a loose design team: working with the BLUEBARN we commissioned four artists to customize the theatre lobby

Brick vestibule by Michael Morgan. Wood floor, theatre siding, heavy timbers, and custom sinks by Daniel Toberer

Interior lighting in public areas by Jim Woodfill

“The idea that a neutral space is necessary for drama defies thousands of years of human history. Theatres have never been neutral spaces.” - Joshua Dachs

The house, with timbers by Daniel Toberer and salvaged seats from the previous BLUEBARN location

A theatre of the city

With the opportunities afforded by the new site and looking to expand the potentials of the theatre, the BLUEBARN sought to mediate between the technical and functional demands of a modern theater, a desire for openness and engagement with the city, and the excitement of continual and unpredictable evolution. Our goal was to enact an exciting urban environment out of the highly specific requirements of the theatre alongside a built framework that would allow programmatic and material improvisation. Here, the protected and abstract space of theater (normally hidden from the outdoors) connects on demand with the realities and noises of the city outside.

Upstage door build by by Chris Kemp connects the theatre interior to the Porchyard

From traditional proscenium to multiple frames

Floor plan with alternate seating and performance configurations

Project Awards

2017 AIA Central States Honor Award for Architecture

2017 AIA Nebraska Honor Award for Architectural Detail

2017 ACEC Nebraska Engineering Excellence Awards, Merit (MEP & lighting, Morrissey Engineering)

2016 AIA Central States Merit Award for Architectural Detail (Rebar Wall)

2016 AIA Nebraska Honor Award for Architecture

2016 AIA San Francisco Special Commendation for Urban Design

2016 ACSA Faculty Design Award

2016 International Illuminance Award, Special Citation for Outdoor Lighting Design, Illuminating Engineering Society

2016 International Merit Award, Illuminating Engineering Society of North America (lighting designer: Morrissey Engineering)


Featured on Dezeen and ArchDaily

Listed by Slate as one of 8 projects in The Best Things America Built in 2016., “Combinational Logic in Nebraska” by Fabrizio Gallanti, March 18, 2018, “A Brave New World of Theatre Design” by Dominic Lutyens, January 23, 2018

C3 Special: Contemporary Communities C3 Publishing Company, Seoul, Korea, 2017

Architect, “Blue Barn Theatre and Boxcar 10, Min | Day” by Chelsey Blahut

The Architects Newspaper, “Black and Blue in Omaha: Two Buildings on One Site with Two Clients – Designed by One Office in Two Locations” by Matthew Messner, Issue 13 November 4, 2015

American Theatre, “House Proud: How to build a new theatre space that is both financially responsible and artistically appropriate” by Eliza Bent, Theatre Communications Group, May / June 2015

Photography By Photographs by Paul Crosby
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