Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park – New Theater and Lobby Renovation

Building Architecture- Large Scale (>10,000 sf)

Project Narrative

Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park, a well-respected regional theatre, wanted to replace its 50-year-old outdated Marx Theatre with a state-of-the-art, intimate, and universally accessible theater. They also wanted a welcoming lobby, improved social spaces between the new and renovated Rosenthal Shelterhouse theatres, and more space for operations, rehearsals, dressing rooms, set design, and storage.

Located in the heart of Eden Park, the project site was challenging, with steep drop-offs on hillsides adjacent to the historic Mount Adams neighborhood. By redirecting the new theatre’s footprint to a more north-facing position, the team minimized the impact on the park’s existing trees and preserved a 150-year-old signature American Elm. The topography was also leveraged to allow backstage spaces, previously buried underground, to have a direct and visual connection with the park's natural beauty.

The Mainstage Theatre Complex, featuring The Rouse Theatre, allows the Playhouse to shine on a national level. New for the company, the stage house is built to the specs of a traditional Broadway theater, allowing Playhouse to partner with peer institutions across America.

The design incorporates curved elements throughout the lobby and main entrance, reflecting the site's unique topographic contours. A two-story glass wall promotes transparency, which provides patrons with captivating views of the surrounding landscape and pre-show activities. The curves soften the canyon effect of the lobby and provide strategic opportunities for unique graphics to honor donors and the company's rich history. Smaller design features—such as a leaf pattern etched into the glass wall to prevent bird strikes, the usage of brick resembling tree bark on the building, and wood inside the theatre—create unique opportunities for discovery that tie back to the park.

The facility enhances the Playhouse’s artistic capabilities and ushers in a new theatrical era for the region.

Community Impact: More than ever, we hope that our roles as project designers impact our communities beyond simply fulfilling immediate programmatic needs. This award is for projects that had far-reaching impacts into the community above and beyond the norm.

Interdisciplinary: While most projects are interdisciplinary in nature, this award honors projects that illustrate an exemplary amount of detail and seamless coordination between different design disciplines. For this award, the project should show that the work of individual design disciplines not only fit into the party of the entire project, but each discipline enhanced and elevated the other’s work, so that the project on the whole became more successful.


Project Details

Submission Category

Building Architecture- Large Scale (>10,000 sf)

Date of Completion

March, 2023