Vogelstein Center for Drama and Film provides a unifying space for the arts

Poughkeepsie, NY, USA

The Vogelstein Center for Drama and Film combines historic preservation with contemporary design to give two expanding academic departments a single home. At its core, the building pays homage to its roots, incorporating the original 1866 Victorian façade of Avery Hall, the revered home of the Drama Department, while providing a unified space for theater and film education. 

“The project speaks strongly to Modernism at the turn of the previous century [Pilcher], midcentury [Breuer], and the present [Pelli]. Now this part of the campus makes visual and architectural sense as it never did before.” — Frances Daly Fergusson, Former President 
Avery Hall served many purposes in its formative years, including: a calisthenium, riding academy, bowling alley, and concert hall. The bulk of the original building was demolished, while the west facade was stabilized during construction and restored. 

A fusion of old and new

The Avery Hall façade stands as a symbol of the past, meticulously restored to its former glory. The addition of the Martel Theater, breathes life into the historic structure, offering a modern performance space while preserving the integrity of the original entrance. A contrast emerges between the old and new, as dark and light gray concrete masonry units envelop the contemporary additions, drawing inspiration from the iconic designs of nearby Ferry House, designed by Marcel Breuer. 

There is a studio theater, design room, costume shop, dressing room, and a scene shop for theater.

A hub of creativity and learning 

The Vogelstein Center fosters a dynamic environment for artistic expression and academic excellence. Equipped with state-of-the-art facilities, including classrooms, seminar rooms, and specialized workspaces tailored to each discipline, the center caters to the diverse needs of theater and film students alike. The 217-seat Rosenwald Film Theater, the main screening room, is equipped with surround sound and 35mm and digital projectors. 

Teaching meets professional performance

The auditorium has a proscenium stage that can also be used as a thrust stage when the orchestra pit is covered. With a full-height flyloft, fully trappable floor, 1,600-square-foot scene shop and a parterre seating arrangement, the Martel has all of the amenities of a working theater needed for teaching. Handsomely appointed with maple wood paneling, the auditorium also has the refinement of a professional theater. 

More About the Project

Project Team

Principal Collaborators

  • Structural Engineer: Spiegel Zamecnik & Shah Inc Engineers
  • MEP Engineer: Vanderweil Engineers
  • Theater Planning: Theatre Projects Consultants
  • Historic Preservation: Integrated Conservation Resources

Project Information

  • Location: Poughkeepsie, New York, USA
  • Client: Vassar College
  • Size: 54,000 sq ft / 5,017 sq m
  • Completion: 2003
  • Firm Role: Full Service Architect