In virtually every city lives an arts culture—in many cases functioning out of marginal facilities below the surface of daily community life. For this project, the challenge was to design a community arts center that would sharpen cultural identity, enrich public experience, and fulfill the civic ambition for the arts to serve as a catalyst for the reinvention of a low-density suburb into a more dense and vibrant civic center. This multi-functional 46,013-square-foot center and adjacent civic park project represents the potential for new urban development to put cultural arts at the heart of urban vitality, helping to establish a core identity and focal point for a rapidly growing, richly diverse community.
Combining a 716-seat multipurpose performing arts theater, regional conference center, and future hotel co-development, the project serves both public and private uses, leveraging market synergy and operational efficiency to provide a sustainable business model.
The new Center's design capitalizes on the prominent downtown location of its 4-acre site, introducing pedestrian connectivity to surrounding uses, as well as new public gathering areas for an active urban presence. Expansive windows on the building's south and west facades provide dramatic views to downtown Federal Way and Mount Rainier—linking inside and outside activities, while celebrating their remarkable natural setting. A flexible outdoor public space connects the Center to the recently completed Town Center Park and reinforces their shared role in bringing the community together.
"This project is about integrating and connecting with the community, catalyzing activity in and around the building, and focusing new energy to positively impact the public realm," notes Wendy Pautz, AIA, Partner at LMN Architects. "With the transformative power of the arts, we are creating a civic asset that supports the cultural, social, and economic aspirations of the community—a place that will become essential to those who live here."
The building represents a hybrid typology—a merging of theater and conference center that strikes a balance between the needs of both while enabling each to function independently. The building's sculptural form derives from the spatial requirements of its program. Inside, spaces strategically maximize the interrelationships between areas. Meeting rooms, and even the lobby, are morphable and sub-dividable—capable of opening to one another as needed.
The multipurpose venue is designed to accommodate theatrical, musical, dance, artistic, and spoken-word performances. Conferences, seminars, meetings, and other assembly events will also take place in both the auditorium and the adjoining 8,000-square-feet of event facilities. A catering kitchen and other support facilities will serve the entire Center's wide-ranging purposes.
Broad expanses of glass—20-feet-tall—open the building to its surroundings and allow the community to look inside. On the outside, metal panels use three different textures in four different colors to create a pattern that divides the building into horizontal bands. These textures and colors not only animate the exterior envelope, but also provide a unique expression of the programs within.