The Theatre School, DePaul University

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Chicago, Illinois, USA
165,000 square feet / 15,000 square meters

Using innovative design elements that emphasize transparency and artistic expression, The Theatre School at DePaul University has become a definitive academic and cultural performing arts destination. Nationally ranked, The Theatre School is located on the Lincoln Park Campus in the heart of a dynamic cultural community, creating a western gateway for the university.

The Theatre School was designed to create fluid interactions between the interior and exterior. The five-story building is a composition of limestone geometric shapes with seemingly random, but purposeful vertical strips of glass that offer subtle glimpses into performances and events. Double-height glass curtain walls bring natural light into the lobby and scene, metal, and paint shops on the first floor, offering the passersby opportunity to watch impromptu performances in the lobby and behind-the-scenes production.

On the primary face of the building is the Sondra & Denis Healy Theatre poised over Fullerton Avenue. This 100-seat, black-box theater features a transparent wall facing the street that may be illuminated in various colors to accentuate the geometric façade. Below the Healy Theatre is the glass-enclosed lobby for the 250-seat thrust theater, Fullerton Stage, illuminating the street-level with activity to further highlight the interior-exterior importance of The Theatre School.

The building’s primary goal was give students and faculty adaptive spaces to explore their creativity, expanding their capabilities and appreciation of the arts. Within The Theater School’s mission, our design was able to incorporate a wide variety of education spaces on multiple levels for a diverse, well-rounded student experience, including acting labs, rehearsal rooms, movement/voice rooms, light labs, sounds labs, and a multitude of creator shops.

Another inventive design highlight for The Theatre School is a second-floor interior pedestrian bridge that reaches across the first floor for student access between performance and rehearsal spaces. This unique feature can convert into a drawbridge to allow the transportation of large scenery to the thrust theater.

The Theatre School is a perfect example of a design excellence balancing the needs of students, faculty, and staff to produce a building that celebrates the arts through education.