A place to explore, expand and empower through the transformative processes of the theatre arts.
At The Alice, the Goodman Theatre’s new Center for Education and Engagement, warm materials are used to transform 10,000 sq. ft. of office space into a welcoming and inspiring learning environment for students of all ages. The project connects two adjacent buildings – Goodman Theatre and Goodman Center – while maintaining a four-hour fire separation and navigating a level change between structures. The ambitious program consists of two STEM learning labs, an auditioning studio, reception and lobby space, support spaces, and a centralized video control space for the entire facility.
The rich material palette honors the named donor, Alice, who was an avid trail runner and nature enthusiast, as well as recalling Goodman Theatre’s founding donor, William Owen Goodman, an American lumber industrialist. Students and visitors first encounter these earthy tones when entering through a portal where red oak stair treads, blackened steel plates, and a millwork-clad wheelchair lift bridge the five-foot difference in floor elevation between the existing theatre lobby and the new space. Once users have passed this threshold, white oak end-grain flooring unfolds underfoot as a durable surface and direct reminder of cut logs—a connection between theater, industry, and running through the forest as Alice once did.
A two-sided wood feature wall, composed of clean striped rift-cut red oak and backed with grey acoustical fabric, dissipates and absorbs sound within STEM learning labs and reception spaces. Vertical wood slats, varying in width and depth, are assembled to allude to a Venetian contour curtain that is being folded to reveal a performance stage. This acoustical “wood curtain” meanders through the Center to define the threshold between public and learning spaces, breaking or “parting” to define entry points into the various classrooms. Wood is integrated within classrooms for its acoustical properties and serves as a means of introducing students to different materials as a creative framework for theatrical performance.
The facility is acoustically isolated from the building structure with resilient pads and acoustical hangers that reduce noise transmission with tenant spaces above and below. Ceiling planes throughout are a mix of absorptive and reflective; an organic arrangement of lighting and mechanical diffusers reinforce the concept of being outdoors under a starry sky. Concrete columns, left exposed, pierce through ceilings and, with lighting designed to highlight a space beyond, accentuate the height of the room.
Using wood afforded unique opportunities: the wood panels have theatrical references, acoustical value and are linked historically to two major institutional donors. Most importantly, through design and materiality, The Alice has become the visible manifestation of The Goodman’s free arts-as-education mission and its increasing impact on Chicago and beyond.
Photography: Steve Hall / Hedrich Blessing and Kendall McCaugherty / Hall + Merrick Photographers
General Contractor: Bulley & Andrews
Theatre Consultant: Schuler & Shook
Acoustical Consultant: Threshold Acoustics
Millwork: Great Lakes Architectural Millwork
Graphic Designer: Studio Blue