Designed Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts Breaks Ground

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Designed Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts Breaks Ground
   March 11 marked the groundbreaking celebration at the historic Beverly Hills Post Office for the new Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, designed by Studio Pali Fekete architects (SPF:a).  The historic building will be restored and adapted, and the spaces that were once used for mail sorting and postage purchases will be redesigned to become a theater school, a flexible studio theater, sculpture garden, café, gift shop and more. Complimenting the historic building will be the 500-seat contemporary Goldsmith Theater.

  At one point, prior to SPF:a’s involvement in the project, conventional wisdom was to place the new performing arts venue within the walls of the historic post office building, and to create a small annex on the site to house the educational components of the program.  SPF:a did the reverse – instead, the studio took the smaller programmatic elements such as the rehearsal hall, classrooms, and administrative offices and located them into the three level historic building, where they fit nicely and snuggly.  This preserves and celebrates the historic architecture, as well as affords the Center the opportunity to create a new, state-of-the-art, flexible performing arts facility with ample back-of-house amenities.

  The plan diagram of the new theater is a “T”, as is the historic building.  By turning the new “T” so that it fits on the site adjacent the existing one, a dynamic site diagram evolves.  The interplay between buildings also forms a series of serene outdoor gardens and courtyards that allow for a variety of activities and landscapes, including a pathway that will allow visitors to walk from City Hall through the site towards the shopping areas.  Each interior space of the complex has a corresponding exterior plaza or garden that extends the space into the public domain and takes advantage of the southern California climate. 

  The new interventions on the site celebrate the history of the site itself, and the activity that took place there: the processing, sorting, and delivery of mail.  Thus the project is essentially a collection of wrappers, envelopes, and surfaces that weave together a diverse set of functions and itineraries.

 The skin of the new Goldsmith Theater is an abstraction of the millions of letters and envelopes that once defined this historic site – formed in copper-colored concrete panels.  A 4 foot by 9 foot envelope-shaped panel is repeated across the façade. The result is a beautiful abstract textural pattern, engraved into a copper skin.  Each envelope is slightly different; some flat, some closed, some open, some turned front side out, and some turned to their backs.  The direction not only creates symbo...

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