jakub | December 29, 2023

AMERICAN THEATRE | Hudson Valley Shakes Unveils Ambitious Green Design for Permanent Home

Studio Gang's projected design for the interior of Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival's new open-air theatre.

GARRISON, N.Y.: Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival (HVSF) and the architecture and urban design practice Studio Gang have unveiled the design for the company’s new home, which promises to be the first purpose-built LEED Platinum theatre—i.e., constructed according to the highest level of “green building” certification—in the U.S. The 13,850-square-foot design will serve as a permanent home for HVSF, which for decades staged its open-air productions of classics and new works in temporary tents at Boscobel House and Gardens overlooking the Hudson River, and more recently relocated to a new permanent home in the hills above. The new structure is the centerpiece of HVSF’s commitment to sustainability and stewardship of the 98-acre campus gifted to the company in 2020 by philanthropist Chris Davis, and is slated for groundbreaking in 2024.

As a press release puts it, the new design brings “nature and art closer together” with a “curved, timber-framed grid shell and timber columns” that “emerge from the landscape to create a dialogue with the Hudson Highlands. The stage’s proscenium arch is carefully oriented to frame picturesque views of the Wey-Gat (or ‘Wind Gate’) of Storm King Mountain, the Hudson River, and Breakneck Ridge.” 

Said Studio Gang founding principal and partner Jeanne Gang in a statement, “Our design aims to help the company build on their strengths, with low-carbon architecture that improves daily functionality and amplifies the traditions that define their open-air performances—like the spectacular proscenium arch framing an iconic Hudson River view—as well as create new opportunities for audiences and actors to interact before and after the show.” She also highlighted the landscape design by Nelson Byrd Woltz, which will supplant the site’s water-intensive former golf course with restored native grasses and wetlands, “replacing a monocultural lawn with a biodiverse landscape that brings resiliency, wildlife, and seasonal beauty for all to enjoy.”

HVSF site plan by landscape designer Nelson Byrd Woltz Landscape Architects.

Added artistic director Davis McCallum in a statement, “HVSF was given the extraordinary opportunity—and challenge—to establish a permanent home that considered not only the future of our theatre and the American theatre at large, but also the urgent need to reexamine our relationship with nature. Studio Gang and the team have met the moment with a design that is not only visually stunning, but also supremely functional and sustainable in every sense.” 

Anchored by an open-air theatre, the design employs several features to enhance environmental performance, including natural ventilation and brise soleil systems, low embodied carbon structure and cladding, rooftop solar panels, and an extensive green roof, among other elements. 

HVSF is also the recent recipient of a $10 million grant from New York State Council on the Arts (NYSCA) as part of NYSCA’s 2023 Capital Improvement Grants for Arts and Culture. The fund’s purpose is to provide resources to cultural institutions for capital improvements that will enable them to expand and sustain diverse programming, enhance accessibility and environmental sustainability, generate and preserve jobs, and contribute to the growth of New York’s arts organizations. A significant portion of the grant will be used to support the construction of the theatre, as well as for the ecological restoration of the site, creating native meadows, new picnic lawns, and new ADA accessible pathways. These initiatives all align with HVSF’s commitment to achieving carbon neutrality for the campus by 2040.

HVSF’s 2024 summer season will include By the Queen by Whitney White, adapted from William Shakespeare’s Henry VI and Richard III, and directed by Shana Cooper; The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Heidi Armbruster, adapted from Agatha Christie and directed by Ryan Quinn; and Medea: Re-Versed by Luis Quintero, adapted from Euripides and directed by Nathan Winkelstein, co-produced with Red Bull Theater and Bedlam. All three productions will run in repertory throughout the summer under the company’s current tent.

Founded in 1987, Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival (HVSF) is a professional nonprofit theatre company based in Garrison, one hour north of Manhattan. Rooted in the landscape of the Hudson Valley, with the plays of William Shakespeare as their touchstone, HVSF engages the widest possible audience in a theatrical celebration of our shared humanity. As of 2021, their budget was around $3.5 million.

Founded and led by Jeanne Gang, Studio Gang is an architecture and urban design practice based in Chicago, San Francisco, New York, and Paris. The firm’s projects range from cultural centers to strategic framework plans and high-rise towers, from the Richard Gilder Center for Science, Education, and Innovation at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, the Arkansas Museum of Fine Arts in Little Rock, the Arcus Center for Social Justice Leadership in Kalamazoo, Mich., and Writers Theatre in Glencoe, Ill.

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