Corona del Mar High School Performing Arts Center

Newport Beach, California

The design for the Corona del Mar High School Theater creates an engaging, hands-on learning environment to prepare students for a future in the arts. The challenge was to develop a theater to adapt to a variety of uses and fit in a limited space, as well as blend the mid-century context of the campus. The solution was a tension-grid system with a tech gallery that wraps around the perimeter of the theater above the audience, allowing students to immerse themselves and engage in creating a production in a hands-on manner. It’s a flexible space designed to accommodate a variety of performance types, from a lecture presentation to an orchestral performance to a production of ‘Oklahoma!’ or a modern dance recital. Acoustics are balanced between reflective and absorbtive, with the ability to adjust as needed.

The complex provides students a variety of spaces to explore their creativity and passions, including singing or playing an instrument, acting, dancing, building stagecraft, producing, or setting the look of a production through costumes and make-up. Each space was designed for multiple uses. For example, the black box theater space can function as a performance space or a drama classroom on a daily basis with access from the main lobby or the campus. When a large production in the theater requires more space, the black box can double as an additional green room, prop room or dressing room space.

This 29,000-square-foot center, which is pursuing LEED Silver, offers exterior access to the black box theater, providing students with an experimental space that they can use on a daily basis. The promenade, which serves as a main path of travel for students on a daily basis, reflects campus pride and draws theater-goers along its glowing edge to the main entrance of the building off the quad.

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