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Auerbach Pollock Friedlander Completes Work on the Soka Performing Arts Center and Academic Building

Auerbach Pollock Friedlander Completes Work on the Soka Performing Arts Center and Academic Building

SAN FRANCISCO - Auerbach Pollock Friedlander, Performing Arts/Media Facilities Planning and Design, celebrate with Soka University of America the opening of the beautiful new Soka Performing Arts Center. Located on a scenic campus in Aliso Viejo, California, the Soka Performing Arts Center meets the varied needs of the University with an elegant and easy to operate facility, while still providing exceptional intimacy and aural quality. The firm collaborated with ZGF Architects LLP, Nagata Acoustics and Soka University of America on the development and programming for all performance and support spaces, and provided theatre consulting services from conceptual design through detail design of the theatrical systems including rigging, seating, stage machinery and theatrical lighting control.

Soka University Performing Arts Center“Once the program is finalized, the course of a project is set. It is important to spend the time and effort in these early stages to get the programming details right. The dynamics of working with such a high level of talent, as was the case with this team, always leads to exceptional results,” said Len Auerbach, Founding Principal. “In addition to the design and specification of the theatrical systems, we provided oversight during the construction process to assure the proper implementation of the technical systems culminating with thorough conformance testing.”

Symphony performances, theatre, dance, pop concerts and convocations in a single room

Soka University Performing Arts Center - Proscenium ConfigurationThe academic needs for music and drama were addressed with the planning of several space configurations within the same venue. The flexible Performing Arts Center can be set up in multiple seating configurations that can accommodate as many as 1,200 patrons. Principal and Project Manager, Mike McMackin explains, “supporting a variety of performance types in a surround seating configuration was a unique challenge. We met the program challenge through an integrated system of stage lifts and seat wagons that also offer a feeling of intimacy, provide ease of circulation with optimal seating and sightlines, and adhere to ADA requirements. Our design of the lift and seat wagon systems facilitates easy changeover for various events including concerts, lectures, dance, drama, spoken word and convocations.” To support the technical needs of the different performance types planned for this hall, Auerbach Pollock Friedlander incorporated a system of easily accessible lighting catwalks and a two-tiered rigging and lighting grid into the architectural and acoustic environment of the room.

In addition to the Performing Arts Center, Auerbach Pollock Friedlander collaborated on the design of the new Black Box Theatre in the adjacent academic building. The Black Box Theatre, which will also serve as a studio classroom, is designed with three pre-set stage/seating configurations for maximum flexibility to support a wide variety of student productions that will encourage experimentation within the technically-advanced studio.

“The Black Box Theatre will be the place where the students get to stretch their wings through their own productions and performances. It is in spaces just like this, flexible and appropriately sized, around the world where the dialogue on performance art begins,” added McMackin.

Soka University of America Performing Arts Center is LEED Gold Certified. There are green roofs on both the Performing Arts Center and the Black Box Theatre portion of the adjacent academic building, and photovoltaic cells on the Performing Arts Center that help power 15% of the structures' electricity, including the performance lighting systems.

Auerbach Glasow French, the firm's architectural lighting division, also consulted on the project for the performance venues and public spaces.

The Soka University of America Performing Arts Center opened with a gala on September 17, 2011.


Performing Arts Center

The programming requirements for the Performing Arts Center were to design a hall flexible enough to suit a variety of uses. The result is a performance venue that can be arranged in a variety of configurations. Auerbach Pollock Friedlander was charged with designing a seating system, as well as technical systems, that will support these very different events. The seating reconfiguration was resolved by using three stage lifts and two rolling seat wagons. Above the seating and staging areas are a double grid and catwalks for technical support systems. The lower one is a tension wire lighting grid, and above that is a ‘grid iron' used for heavy scenic rigging, winch motors and fixed motorized pipe battens.

Major seating configurations allow for very diverse programming

• Convocation hall – 1,200 seats

• Thrust Stage – 1,046 seats

• Concert Hall – 929 seats

• Proscenium Stage – 723 seats

Seating changes are accomplished through the reconfiguration of two seating wagons on tracks, either in or out of the “seating garages”, a complement of platforms and portable audience seating.

• The storage for the seating – “seating garages” - is under the center left and center right seating sections.

• The seating lifts can be lowered to reveal a fixed thrust stage and improve the sightlines to the stage.

• Additional fixed seating is located on the south side of the room and is used for both the convocation and arena settings. It can also be used for large choral and symphony performances. When the space is converted to a thrust stage this seating section may be masked with pre-set draperies.

• Non-fixed stacking chairs are installed for the convocation configuration.

The dual level grid over the stage is a unique application of theatrical architectural structures.

• The lower level tension wire grid provides easy access to the overstage theatrical lighting.

• The upper level load bearing grid-iron provides a mounting platform for hanging stage set pieces, lighting trusses and audio equipment. The grid houses six motorized pipe battens.

• Hanging positions for masking draperies can be used to create stage wings for productions that require masked off stage space.

Black Box Theatre in Academic Building

The Black Box Theatre, in the adjacent academic building, is designed to provide an intimate environment with ample technical support appropriate for teaching and experimenting with live performance styles.

• The floor is sprung for dance but is also robust enough for heavy scenic loads. The side walls are detailed with an embedded channel system for attachment of scenic elements and technical devices.

• Overhead is a tension grid ceiling made of woven steel cable providing technicians a walking surface through which lighting fixtures can be focused and theatrical elements can be rigged anywhere in the room.

• A modular seating system allows up to 180 seats to be deployed in arena, thrust or end stage configurations.

• The theatrical lighting system includes 147 individually-controlled circuits with programmable lighting control. There are also ample production power sources for motorized equipment, stage effects or audio/video systems.

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