A theater might be an unexpected occupant of five and a half floors of an 11-story office building, but Washington, D.C.'s Shakespeare Theatre Co. (STC) couldn't pass up the opportunity to expand its performance space. STC's existing home—the 451-seat Lansburgh Theatre, located just 100 yards from the expansion site—is now joined by the 774-seat Sidney Harman Hall, which opened Oct. 1, 2007. Collectively, they are known as the Harman Center for the Arts.

The Harman Center is hard to miss, with its three-level glass façade curtain wall that “emphasizes a jewel-like transparency,” says Shaili Patel, senior associate at Mulvey and Banani International, the electrical engineering firm responsible for the project's lighting design. “The façade directly links the activity within the lobby areas with the surrounding urban environment.” General illumination in the lobbies comes from 75W halogen MR16 downlights. During the day, the electric lighting in the lobby is dimmed because of the natural light afforded by the façade, but at night Patel says it “creates an inviting ambience.”

In the lobby, asymmetrical reflector T5 fluorescent covelights illuminate the theater wall and floor cutout that “separates” the performance area for acoustic isolation. Recessed 150W and 250W halogen PAR38 lamps provide ambient light over the seats in the hall, where the walls include African cherry wood panels in varying widths and depths for sound diffusion. Custom LED wall sconces highlight the wooden pilasters, while plug-in LED luminaires illuminate the stage area's removable pilasters because fixtures any deeper than 4 inches would have been damaged by the rigging lines. The stage lighting, accessed by the suspended catwalk, is flexible, and components can be plugged into connector strips controlled by a dimming system. With the addition of Sydney Harman Hall, the STC can host more theater-goers and performances while also being a performance itself, attracting onlookers as they pass by the eye-catching glass façade.

Project Sidney Harman Hall, Harman Center for the Arts, Washington, D.C.
Client Shakespeare Theatre Co., Washington, D.C.
Architect Diamond and Schmitt Architects, Toronto
Electrical Engineer Mulvey and Banani International Inc., Toronto
Theater Architect Fisher Dachs Associates, New York
Acoustic Design Talaske, Oak Park, Ill.
Mechanical Engineer Crossey Engineering Ltd., Toronto
Project Size 85,000 square feet
Watts per Square Foot 3
Photographer Tom Arban, Toronto
Manufacturers Bruck, Cole Lighting, Design Plan, Elliptipar, ERCO, Indy Lighting, Juno Lighting, Leucos, Midwest, Paramount, Phoenix, Prescolite, RAB Lighting, RSA Lighting, Selux, Visioneering Corp., WE-EF, Zumtobel