Construction Zone: Theater renovation

Harvard University's New College Theatre, Cambridge, Mass., recently was renovated and expanded to create a modern facility with a 274-seat theater. The project included rehearsal rooms, changing rooms, a prop and scene workshop, orchestra and stage lifts, offices and a reception area.

The theater's construction involved a renovation of the front portion of the historic theater building — about a quarter of the existing facility. The rear portion of the structure was demolished and replaced with a 30,000-square-foot wing consisting of a theater, rehearsal and teaching spaces, and professional-level theater support facilities.

Given the historic nature of the Georgian Revival building, the team preserved and restored the facade and front quarter of the existing building to meet Harvard's goal of retaining the building's historical significance and neighborhood charm.

Because the city of Cambridge zoning and historic-preservation regulations limit building height, the team had to build down to meet Harvard's construction goals. As a result, the new wing includes three floors above grade and three floors below grade. Because of the theater's constricted site, the team used complicated slurry wall construction for the building's foundations. The slurry walls, which are used to build foundations in areas of soft earth close to open water or with a high-ground water table, allowed the team to excavate the 55-foot hole required to build vertically without using excessive structural forms.

The architect is Leers Weinzapfel Associates (Boston). Shawmut Design and Construction (Boston) is the construction-management firm.

Start: August 2005

Completion: June 2007

Project area: 36,000 sq. ft.

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