A single, folded roof plane encloses this theater complex for Menlo-Atherton High School. Surrounded by the semi-rustic environment of Menlo Park, with a mission to bring both music and drama to the community, this project is the result of a two-stage national competition conducted by the Sequoia School District.
Hodgetts + Fung's design of MAPAC is based, first, on the creation of a social organism which would enhance the creative activities of the actors and musicians who perform there. The practice rooms take on some of the flavor of an artist’s garret, named Earth, Wind, and Fire. The exaggerated form of the rehearsal room, with its vast clerestory, speaks to the exuberance of musical energy.
This metaphor is extended to the structure, the geometry, and three-dimensionality to reflect, to some degree, the “jumble”of energy which is brought together in a single performance.
“At the heart of their vivid, tactile architecture is an ability to heighten the way people see and experience space”- Alan Hess
Featuring broad, overhanging eaves designed to complement the surrounding low-slung classroom buildings, and monumental structural "trees" which echo the entry grove of historic oaks, the building is configured to serve both a formal, regional audience, and a more casual group of parents and students. Within the theater, digitally processed luminous screens evoke foliage and serve to modulate acoustics according to the needs of the performer.
The 500-seat theater is augmented by a music rehearsal room and individual practice rooms, a multipurpose meeting room and cafeteria, a scenic workshop, and other typical "back of house" amenities. Visible from public roadways that run along the campus, the center provides a visual centerpiece to the campus and a distinct identity for the school.
The interior of the center is dominated by a five-hundred seat auditorium which can be optimized acoustically for either dramatic performances or musical events. To provide a sense of intimacy for smaller audiences, the auditorium features architecturally integrated devices that reduce the proscenium width. A special air plenum helps to produce an environment of recording studio silence