Olney Theatre Center - Phase 1

Olney Theatre Center for the Arts is a progressive theatre company housed on a historic campus. EskewDumezRipple was tasked with creating a master plan to enhance community engagement, provide an inclusive and collaborative environment for art, and create a network of spaces and scenarios for learners to unleash their creativity.

This first phase of the master plan is the addition of a new lobby and back of house space to the black box theatre.



3.400 sf

Year of Completion



Cultural and Civic


Architecture Urban Planning


Alain Jaramillo


Design Workshop - Landscape Architect CMTA Consulting Engineers - MEP Engineer Holbert Apple Associates - Structural engineer Soltesz - Civil Engineer Theatre Projects Consultants - Theatre Planning Akustiks - Acoustics Palacio Collaborative - Cost Estimator Whiting Turner - Contractor

Situated in a rural area of the northeast, but within striking distance of several large metropolitan areas, the theatre lab seeks to fulfill two seemingly divergent, but intertwined missions: an opportunity to immerse oneself in the rural splendor of nature, “away from it all,” while simultaneously offering world-class avant-garde experimental theatre usually only found in urban city centers. In design, the team looked to uphold this sentiment, organizing the building to take full advantage of the surrounding natural beauty—maximizing relationships between indoor and outdoor use, while also imbuing the project with a sense of the mystical.

The shaped roof and expansive glazing of the new addition provides a distinctive and recognizable entrance that blends seamlessly into the existing campus architecture. The user experience extends into the lobby where the expressive ceilings replicate the exterior building form. The immediate lobby is a warm, wood-designed space, with adjoining access to the outdoors during intermission or after performances. As guests transition into the black-box theatre their journey is denoted by a liminal area: a blue glowing threshold signaling the start of the performance and entry into the unknown.

Inclusion Drives Innovation

The Olney Theatre Center welcomes a diverse collection of users. The theater employs a full production crew to produce shows and actors to perform them while also hosting casts and crews for other productions visiting campus. The leadership, administration and other staff members work on site. Local patrons, regional theater buffs, and audience members traveling from afar all come together routinely throughout the year to see the work.

Diversity and inclusion are primary values of Olney Theatre Center. OTC believes that diversity and inclusion fuel great art. The variety of voices on campus and their access to influence each other allows the performing arts at Olney to transcend routine and predictable outcomes to produce meaningful and important vanguard art for their audience.

A diagram displaying shared interior spaces and their adjacent complementary outdoor gathering spaces.

Shared Spaces

As people from different user groups travel between their respective spaces throughout the campus, they cross paths at strategically located shared communal spaces designed as liminal spaces between buildings. The interaction among the different groups strengthens the OTC community; this diversity and inclusion drives innovation.

1. The Theatre Lab
2. Original Theatre
3. Makers' Center - Production Area
4. Makers’ Center - Office Area
5. Education Wing
6. Artist Cottages
7. Restaurant / Artist Residences
8. Outdoor Pavilion