Inside Diller Scofidio + Renfro’s innovative performing arts center


It is a remarkable architecture. The exterior of the $110 million, 84,000 square foot building is made up of twisting, undulating forms of fiberglass reinforced concrete (GFRC) panels and Corten steel, complementing the limestone and rust-red brick of the buildings history of the campus, without forgetting the industrial history of Worcester. The GFRC walls turn into a roof, and vice versa, while the Corten panels, mounted at an angle, follow the slope of the site.

Dance performance in the Beehive, with a view of the Studio Theater black box. IMAGE COURTESY OF BRETT BEYER

The building, whose executive architect was Perry Dean Rogers, is arranged in quadrants, like a compass pointing in four directions, or a cross. The program for the front and rear of the house is organized around a central three-level space called Beehive.

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“It’s like a courtyard, but designed for Massachusetts winters,” says Charles Renfro, project partner for DS+R. “The idea is that the spaces in front and behind the house energize each other. And the Hive is completely open to all students, whether or not they have Prior courses. They can cross it going from the student center to the sports complex on the other side.

The building, which hosts both the performing and visual arts, includes the 400-seat Anna M. and Louis H. Luth, Jr. Concert Hall, with a full flight tower so it can accommodate the opera if necessary, said Renfro. “Its acoustics can rival the best halls in Europe,” he boasts. Jaffe Holden was the acoustic consultant. The room is paneled in warm, sustainably harvested Makore wood. Its side walls feature concrete diffusion panels that look like gray curtains but are stiff to the touch.

Inside the Lute concert hall.
Performance inside the Luth concert hall. IMAGE COURTESY OF BRETT BEYER

Directly across from the Beehive is the black box Boroughs Theatre, which the architect describes as “completely transformable. Seats move, walls move. It’s very flexible. Stretching in the other two directions is the Booth Media Lab, a place to learn sound recording and other audio skills, as well as a full stage store. The two spaces are “showcased” in the Hive via glass partitions. The Stage Shop in particular offers a fascinating insight into the background preparations for performances. The college hosts at least one musical per semester, and officials are quick to point out that the Prior is intended as a resource for its host city.

“We invite Worcester to come and enjoy this building,” says Rougeau.

The Prior’s visual arts component, the 2,500 square foot Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Art Gallery, is located directly above the Prior’s main entrance, which resembles a Broadway theater with a low canopy , a grid of lights and posters announcing the next play or musical.

The stage store has a surprisingly good view. IMAGE COURTESY OF BRETT BEYER

Like the entire complex, the Cantor has an educational vocation. During a recent press visit, about two dozen students were busy drawing artwork on the walls. Just above the main entrance is a large windowed area for site-specific controls. Currently on display (and clearly visible from the street) is a colorful installation called “The Travellers” by New York artist and Holy Cross alumnus Justine Hill.

Due to its cross layout, the Prior forms exterior spaces at the four corners. In each is a garden designed by Olin Landscape Architecture. One of the corners has a small landscaped amphitheater, another an outdoor teaching space, another a meditative garden and finally a sculpture garden which will feature a sculpture by Rodin, again courtesy of the Cantors .

Renfro is proud to showcase both performing and visual arts throughout the design: “The building’s dual identity is expressed in its materials, which are rugged and industrial without sacrificing warmth and comfort. It places intersectionality, inclusion and interdisciplinarity at the heart of its concerns. »


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