The Howard Theatre, founded in 1910, was one of the first theatres for African American performing arts; a true cultural gem of Washington DC and for US history. It was abandoned for over 30 years and the interior was destroyed from neglect; however Marshall Moya Design (MMD) revived the theatre while preserving its history and elegance with a 21st century means of expression. MMD preserved the five original columns, the dome, layout, and balconies. The firm’s design of the theatre garnered national and international attention for the tasteful renovation and restoration that honors the past, while incorporating elements of a modern performance venue. Traditionally, a wall of signatures marked the legacy of past performers. This concept has been resurrected in a modern format to preserve the legendary icons of the past, present, and the future. Throughout the theatre, light boxes also display important artists who performed at Howard Theatre such as Ella Fitzgerald, Diana Ross, and Ray Charles. The light boxes not only preserve the history of the performers, but patrons can interact with the images in a visually stunning medium, ranging in size up to 15 feet tall by 4 feet wide. The technical requirements bring the theatre up-to-date, including state-of-the-art systems to enhance the venue for the contemporary enjoyment of patrons. The flexible seating arrangement accommodates all types of performances, with a hydraulic lift that can transform the theater from supper-club-style seating for 650 into a ballroom space for 1,100 in 40 minutes. A full-service restaurant and kitchen, two Brazilian granite bars, custom signage, leather seating, two DJ booths, and warm walnut paneled walls with dark oak floors all contribute to an elegant experience and atmosphere for patrons. The public/private partnership of this project has facilitated economic development and urban renewal in the Shaw neighborhood of Washington, DC.
In collaboration with Martinez + Johnson Architecture (responsible for the exterior and back of house space).