CIVIC: Madera Performing Arts Center | Madera, CA | In-Progress

The site of former Lincoln Grammar School is facing a great opportunity. The school, which has been destroyed by fire several times, and is now mostly vacant after the construction of the new courthouse facility, is proposed to become a bustling Cultural and Performing Arts Center for Madera. Once a dream, this project is now becoming a reality as we begin to layout spaces, think about acoustical, architectural and practical issues.  The goal is to build a Cultural and Performing Arts Center that not only meets a need for Madera residents but acts as a regional destination for the Central Valley.

As we started programming this facility, we spoke with many potential user groups, read through prior feasibility studies, and partnered with local schools, the City and County of Madera and the Madera County Arts Council. We found out that the Madera community has a significant donor base for the arts, and people are excited to create this center as a destination for downtown. It’s potential as a catalyst for future development makes this an important investment for the community, even with its $30-50 million dollar price tag (appendix d) and considerable design process.

There have been many prior case studies of similar performing arts centers in cities of similar size. However, this facility is unique in that there are a variety of spaces allowing for multiple simultaneous events or partial building opening. After extensive local and regional research, the main theater was sized at approximately 500 seats to fill a regional need for a theater of that size. The stage was sized for the largest possible school orchestral performance, and includes a full-scale flytower for local and traveling theatrical productions. The building systems support the wide variety of potential performance types, including theater, dance, live and amplified music, movies, lectures and symposiums. The back of house was sized and arranged to support all of these performances with ample rehearsal space, green rooms, as well as set and instrument storage. In addition, a smaller secondary theater space can accommodate up to 120 people in a sloped floor lecture style space. This smaller venue is designed with a raised stage for smaller solo/duet performances, recitals, small musical ensembles and distance learning presentations.

Other program components include a 500-seat divisible banquet facility that is rentable as a source of income for the facility’s operator. The sprung wood floor is versatile enough to host wedding receptions, conferences, ceremonies, club meetings and parties. One of the three divided rooms serves as a dance studio as well when the entire space isn’t being used. Each of these spaces is set up to facilitate video/graphic projection. A media studio includes 30 workstations, broadcasting capabilities, and provides an educational component where students and adults could take classes or rent equipment to facilitate graphic arts production. AV systems will support instructor monitoring of each workstation and surround sound for music/video editing and creation. A small meeting room will seat about 50 people for community meetings, trainings, and seminars. A large, 3,000 square foot secured art gallery is designed for permanent and temporary local or traveling exhibits.

The large lobby and circulation corridor is sized for pre-function gatherings or art/sculpture display. It connects all of the major program elements to a generous interior courtyard, which is secured from public access and is rentable as a standalone space or in addition to banquet/theater spaces. The landscaping will be a combination of hardscape and low maintenance, drought tolerant shrubs and trees and generous overhangs. The administrative offices provide space for Madera County Arts Council or the facility’s operating entity to house a permanent staff of up to 12 people. The space includes private and open offices, a conference room, and break room. A small cafe on the corner of G Street and Yosemite will be leasable to a local business, providing a source of income for the facility operator and bringing daily foot traffic to the building.

More technically, the cultural and performing arts program requires a significant amount of support spaces including performer and guest drop-off, set and equipment delivery and staging, and catering access. All of these functions are provided along the freeway alley or off-street to ensure the facility’s smooth operation without obstructing street traffic. Internally, the audio-visual systems will be designed carefully to minimize reverberation times and noise intrusion from mechanical and plumbing systems.

All of the spaces have been carefully designed to include and control natural daylight, as needed for the specific spaces. Clerestory windows add natural light in the lobby/corridor spaces, and the gallery has controllable skylights to produce a diffuse light that wont’ negatively impact art viewing or aging. Large overhangs and sun shades over expanses of glass keep the facades shaded during hot summer months, so the interior thermal comfort isn’t compromised.

The entire building will be raised on podium, giving a civic presence and aiding in technical fluidity required by level changes in back of house functions.The active program elements like the cafe and banquet facility flank the street to activate it with life. An outdoor stage on G Street connects the activities within the cultural and performing arts center to the arts in the renovated library building across the street.