St. Lawrence Arts Theater- Portland, Maine
The St Lawrence Arts Theater is an anomaly in the Munjoy Hill neighborhood – a primarily residential area of two and three-story buildings. The Hill has a distinct urban fabric that is fairly consistent with one major exception along the Congress St corridor. Congress Street accumulates all of the necessary supporting commercial elements: restaurants, shops, markets, a fire station, the Observatory Tower, etc. Up until the end of the last century the St Lawrence Church was one of these major supporting elements and functioned intermittently in the neighborhood – Sundays, some evenings, special events, holidays. This typology adds a cyclical tempo to a site and to the surrounding area.
In order to take advantage, architecturally, of this cyclical activity we have designed the Theater using the metaphor of a paper lantern – glowing, somewhat crinkled, buoyant. This idea serves to reinforce the moments when the Theater is active, and allows for the building to assume a milder demeanor when inactive. The perforated and folded metal skin, suspended on a light armature from the face of the solid building, provides a space into which lighting can be introduced to announce the moments of activity, to emit a glow of visual interest.
Formally, the building provides two stages – the primary stage within used for the performances, and the secondary stage on the street (our porch element) which allows the audience to be seen and to perform for the neighborhood and the street. This duality again reinforces the building’s engagement with its site and its place in the city.