Schuster Performing Arts Center

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Dayton, Ohio, USA
430,000 square feet / 40,000 square meters

The Schuster Performing Arts Center is a world-class theater destination that hosts local, national, and international talent in a variety of disciplines. Occupying a full block in the very center of Dayton, the centerpiece of Dayton’s arts district.

The Kettering Wintergarden, a glazed public atrium, is the focal point of the complex. It serves as a lobby for the theater and as a forecourt for a restaurant and ticket office. Set well back from the intersection of Main and West Second Streets, it creates a generous public plaza and prominent entrance.

The complex is made up of three major components: Mead Theatre, Kettering Wintergarden, and an 18-story office/residential tower. Our design initiative was to design a landmark theater that enriched Dayton’s art and cultural life, bringing visitors from all over to experience the joy of performance in an inspiring, sophisticated setting.

The Mead Theatre is a 2,300-seat, multi-purpose hall—the permanent home of the Dayton Philharmonic, while also accommodating the Victoria Theatre Association and the Dayton Opera. We designed the theater to be an intimate space, resulting in the last row of seating on the bottom level to be only 120 feet from the stage.

This intimacy is further defined by the concentric circles on the ceiling that appear to open up into a defined sparkling center. This celestial dome is lit with fiber optic “stars” to replicate the sky on December 16, 1903, the eve of the first powered flight of Dayton natives, the Wright Brothers. The balconies continue the dotted lighting pattern on their edges for a subtle accent in a darkened theater.

Our design also included a 150-seat, flexible black-box theater, known as Mathile Theatre, which is used for rehearsals, small-scale performances, and special events.