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TheatreSquared Wins 2020 American Architecture Award

PLSN Staff • News • October 14, 2020

NORTHWEST ARKANSAS—TheatreSquared has been awarded the prestigious 2020 American Architecture Award, honoring the best new buildings designed and constructed by American architects in the U.S. and abroad. The recognition is among the nation’s highest public awards for new American architecture.

More details from TheaterSquared (

“We are thrilled to see Northwest Arkansas’s theatre recognized with this international distinction,” said Executive Director Martin Miller. “It is a credit to every community member who took part in this grassroots-driven process and to the amazing design and construction professionals who made this vision a reality.”

TheatreSquared’s new home was designed by Marvel Architects with lead consultant and theatre designer Charcoalblue under the auspices of the Walton Family Foundation’s Design Excellence Program. The $31 million, 50,000-square-foot facility brings together two intimate theatres; education and community space; rehearsal and meeting areas; on-site workshops and storage for scenery, props and costumes; eight self-sufficient guest artist apartments; outdoor gathering spaces at three levels; and the open-all-day Commons Bar/Café. Board-formed architectural concrete wraps the theatre volumes, creating acoustic isolation from even the blast of a nearby freight train. A third, glass-enclosed, flexible performance space blends into the public Commons, the site of lively, free pop-up performances and community events yearlong. Above, the prominent Walker Rehearsal Room, also partly transparent, projects over the newly animated corner of West & Spring streets in downtown Fayetteville, Arkansas.

Sponsored by The Chicago Athanaeum: Museum of Architecture And Design, the European Center for Architecture Art Design and Urban Studies, and Metropolitan Arts Press, the American Architecture Awards are dedicated to the recognition of excellence in architecture and urbanism in the United States. The Museum will exhibit the awarded projects in an exhibition format and publish the selected winners on the Museum’s website and in a catalogue by Metropolitan Arts Press.

The design team at Marvel Architects for TheatreSquared includes Jonathan Marvel, Lissa So, Zachary Griffin, Ariel Poliner, Siyuan Ye, Enrique Ramon, Mabel Plasencia, and Bell Ying Cai.  For lead consultant Charcoalblue, Clemeth Abercrombie led a team including Owen Hughes, Ben Hanson, Amanda Brecknell, Bruno Cardenas, Simon Bond, Caroline Rouse, Eric Furbish, Graeme McGinty, Jon Stevens, and John Owens. Baldwin and Shell Construction Company built the facility, led by project manager Mario Beltran and construction supervisor Morris Vines.

The path to a new, permanent home for TheatreSquared began with a vision drafted by a group of community members and artists in March 2015:

“We see TheatreSquared as its own center, a destination and a place of origin. We see a gathering place—a theatre commons—that is welcoming and fascinating, alive with activity. A place that invites, hints at the unusual, suggests, something significant will happen here. And, in the beating heart of the building are brilliant performances, intimate and unmediated, celebrating the joys and struggles of what it means to be human. Here on this corner, we see a permanent home for remarkable theatre, done well and with passion.”

Fueled by support from the Walton Family Foundation’s Design Excellence program, TheatreSquared announced the selection of a world-class design team in November 2015.  A close collaboration between London-based theatre planners Charcoalblue and New York-based Marvel Architects — TheatreSquared’s new home came with the expertise that built theatres for the Royal Shakespeare Company, London’s National Theatre,  St. Ann’s Warehouse, and Chicago Shakespeare Theater, among many others. Thanks to a 100-year lease approved in 2016 by the Fayetteville City Council, the theatre is a vibrant artistic campus, located steps from dozens of restaurants and bars, blocks from the University of Arkansas campus, and across the street from a new 250-space parking garage.  The new building also features residences for internationally renowned theatre artists to work and live in downtown Fayetteville.

The building, its materials, and craftsmanship are an expression and celebration of Northwest Arkansas. The wood of the furniture, walls, and floors were sourced from trees felled from the site, and local Ozark boulders were embedded into the landscaping. A limited material palette was used, giving priority to durability, flexibility, and the building’s technical performance systems. Concrete provides a low-maintenance and durable finish intended to last for generations. The charring of the wood on the exterior creates a natural protective coating with an expected 50-year or longer lifetime. The materials work to create an efficient and sensible design where every space and material is used economically and purposefully.

The 51,000 square foot complex is an anchor to Fayetteville’s emerging Cultural Arts Corridor, which broke ground in Fayetteville in September 2020 and will transform the use of the West Avenue to a place of public engagement and recreation with world-class award-winning design at the center.


About TheatreSquared

TheatreSquared’s signature offering of bold new plays in an intimate setting has driven its growth to become the state’s largest theatre, offering more than 300 performances annually in two intimate spaces. The playwright-led company is one of mid-America’s leading laboratories for new work, having launched more than 60 new plays. Notable collaborators have included Bryna Turner, Anne García-Romero, Pulitzer Prize finalist Lisa D’Amour, Qui Nguyen, Mona Mansour, Tony Award nominee Lee Blessing, Amy Evans, and many others. TheatreSquared’s remarkable expansion—with a twentyfold increase in audience in just the past decade—parallels the emergence of its home region in the northwest corner of Arkansas as a booming population center and destination for American art.  Offering far-reaching access and education programs and an open-all-day gathering space, the Commons Bar/Café,  TheatreSquared remains rooted in its founding vision, that “theatre—done well and with passion—can transform lives and communities.”

TheatreSquared’s Our Next Stage Campaign raised special funds to support the design and construction of the new building as well as a new, permanent operation reserve. TheatreSquared is proud to recognize leadership support from the Walton Family Foundation, City of Fayetteville, Experience Fayetteville, the State of Arkansas, the Willard & Pat Walker Charitable Foundation, and Joel and Lynn Carver.

Special thanks also to Century Level Donors of $100,000 or more: Margaret & Richard Rutherford, Kirk Thompson and Brett Burch, Walmart Foundation, Carolyn and Nick Cole, Simmons Family Foundation, Candace and David Starling, Christina Moore and Paul Green, Bob and Becky Alexander, Tod Yeslow and Jackie Telfair, Barbara Shadden, Ted and Leslie Belden, James and Nancy Blair, Susan and Orville Hall, Ellis and Kay Melton, National Endowment For The Arts, Jenifer S. Tucker, John and Kitten Weiss, and the Bodenhamer Foundation… as well as to every generous donor who have helped bring the Campaign to 90% of its fundraising goal to date.

Major funding for the TheatreSquared Season 15 is provided by The Walton Family Foundation, Inc.; the Walmart Foundation; and by the Arkansas Arts Council, an agency of the Department of Arkansas Heritage and the National Endowment for the Arts. Marketing support for TheatreSquared Season 15 is provided by Experience Fayetteville, the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Fayetteville Flyer, CitiScapes, KUAF, MailCo USA and Univision

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