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Hattiloo Theater


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11,000 sq. feet



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Project Description


The first and only black repertory theater in Memphis sought to relocate from its start-up space to an existing parking lot in an urban entertainment district currently undergoing a resurgence. The new building allows the theater to have its own identity and establish a presence on the corner of a main artery into the district. 

Working with a tight budget, the design team formulated an early strategy with two goals: First, define components that were permanent and components that could be added over time based on continued fundraising and profit (this would allow the theater to add lighting, etc., but not sacrifice building quality); and second, keep it simple.

 The building is divided into two main programmatic volumes: the performance volume, featuring two black box theaters and support spaces, and an administration volume. Conceived as windowless boxes, the two theaters occupy the northern edge of the site, abutting a neighboring parking lot. The irregular massing is reflective of the required internal volumes, yet both boxes are clad in a shingled siding that lends continuity and texture to an otherwise blank façade. The lower volume houses the entry lobby, ticketing and administrative spaces, and presents a welcoming pedestrian scale along the southern edge of the secondary street (Monroe Avenue). Cor-Ten cladding was used for its ability to weather and oxidize over time while adding to the unique character of the entertainment district.

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