Burbank Auditorium Modernization

Project Description

The Burbank Auditorium Modernization project was the first major project in Santa Rosa Junior College’s 2014 Measure H Bond program. Designed as the home for SRJC’s well-respected Theatre Arts Department and Summer Repertory Theatre, as well as many other campus programs and events, the facility is a key site for engagement between the College and the Santa Rosa community. The project involved the modernization of the interior and exterior of the entire 30,000 square foot Burbank Auditorium building, as well as a 5,000 square foot addition for a total construction cost of approximately $32 Million.

This extensive renovation and expansion project is a striking centerpiece at the front door of SRJC’s campus. The project’s primary goal was to create a sophisticated and contemporary center for the performing arts while preserving the rich heritage of this community landmark at the core of this tight knit campus. Burbank now rises proudly from an expanded terrace with a grand staircase that welcomes the public to performances. A targeted and strategic approach to altering the building structure maximizes openness, connectivity and accessibility without compromising the structural and material integrity of the original building. By rightsizing and reorganizing spatial relationships, the building was completely transformed with seamless circulation paths, energy efficient building systems, and integrated theatrical production technology.

The project doubled the size of the public lobby, bringing a balance of contemporary materials and reference to historical detail within this generous and welcoming space. The revamped auditorium features tiered risers with fantastic sightlines and accessible seating throughout the space as well as new, technology-enhanced lighting catwalks and orchestra pit that were relocated out of the public’s eye. The addition of a 200-seat “Studio Theater” allows students to rehearse and perform in a wide variety of staging and performance styles while also serving as a multi-purpose lecture classroom for the College. The building is designed to accommodate simultaneous events in the main and studio theatres and allows outside groups to utilize the performance spaces for music, dance and general education without compromising the primary theatrical functions. Support spaces such as a rehearsal studio, make-up lab, costume shop, dressing rooms, green room and scene shop were also completely overhauled, right-sizing and outfitting each space for contemporary instruction. These improvements provide students with real world learning opportunities within a professional-level theatre environment while also significantly enhancing the quality of performances and the experience of audiences.

Design Challenge

The most significant achievement of this project was fitting the College’s ambitious program into a highly constrained site while maintaining the integrity of this heritage building. We carefully reinserted the building’s program - rightsizing and reorganizing spaces to fit within the structure’s constraints while substantially improving functionality, technology and circulation. A targeted and strategic approach to altering the building structure maximized openness and connectivity without comprising the structural integrity of this aging building. Inside the main auditorium, the seating, performance and technical areas were completely reconstructed. New raked seating improved sightlines for all audience members while opening up new usable space below. Catwalks were shifted into the attic which improved the lighting functionality and acoustics of the space while removing them from the view of the audience. The project’s approach to accessibility is also exceptional. The design went beyond basic code compliance in order to enhance audience experience and better support theatrical instruction and performance. Prior to the project, the various spaces inside the building had become disjointed from one another - separated by convoluted circulation and excessive level changes. The solution was to provide a raised floor that united nearly all rooms on a single level, allowing for a more seamless, fully accessible circulation route for performers and the audience alike. The terrace at the building’s main entrance was completely rebuilt and enlarged with accessibility in mind - integrating the ramp with the architecture and creating an approach to the building that is welcoming and generous to all.   Sustainable design was another a key driver for the Burbank project. The building features a geothermal heating and cooling system which resulted in significant reduction of energy use and eliminated the use of natural gas for any building systems. This was made possible by the creation of a 300+ bore geothermal field beneath the adjacent football field. The Burbank project was designed, coordinated and constructed concurrently with the geothermal project which repurposed Burbank’s former gas-fired boiler room into a geothermal chiller plant. The project also included numerous improvements to the building envelope that reduce heating and cooling loads and improve thermal comfort. All the general lighting and much of the stage lighting were upgraded to LED fixtures which also contributed to energy savings. Burbank is a “Net-Zero Energy Ready” building, which when combined with adjacent solar power projects, consumes less energy than the on-site renewable generated energy.

Physical Context

Burbank Auditorium is located at the core of the SRJC campus with its main entrance facing Burbank Circle - the original gateway and ceremonial entrance to the campus. The building is part of a cluster of heritage 1930’s buildings that surround the main quad - a large landscaped open space that is the social and circulation hub of the campus. This campus is a rare example amongst California Community Colleges where the original campus plan and architectural character have been largely preserved. Burbank and the other original buildings are protected and celebrated as “Heritage” buildings by the College and have set the tone for the design of all subsequent construction on campus.   Burbank Auditorium stands out as the most prominent of these original buildings - due to its size, prominent location, fine detailing and its role as a key site for community engagement. Preservation and celebration of the original main entrance was a high priority for the project, as well as enhancing connectivity and views to the quad. The entry stairs and terrace maintain the axial relationship between the building entry and the traditional arrival sequence of the campus, while also introducing new accessible pathways that are gracefully integrated into the architecture and which welcome students and theatre patrons arriving from other parts of the campus.   The building is surrounded with several varieties of mature, native oak trees which predate the construction of the campus, as well as a tall cedar tree and majestic cork oak that are contemporaneous with the original construction. Careful planning, design and construction measures were taken to preserve these trees which are considered to be sacred symbols of the campus. In particular, great care was taken with the siting and sizing of the addition. The new theatre sits on a highly constrained site, with the original building directly to the north, the music building to the east, a major pedestrian pathway and emergency vehicle access road to the south and two majestic oaks to the west. The addition with snugly within these constraints without negatively impacting its context or compromising on the functionality of the theatre.   Finally, the exterior finish materials of the theatre were a major contextual consideration. With the original Burbank building and so much of the surrounding campus defined by the traditional red brick, Collegiate Gothic style architecture, there was significant pressure to match that aesthetic in the design of the new addition. However, the Design Team felt that in order to pay proper homage to the original building and follow the Secretary of the Interiors Standards for Rehabilitation, the addition needed to be clearly differentiated and deferential to the original building – rather than mimic it. The use of stacked bond, grey brick brought a contemporary sensibility to the new structure while reflecting the texture and techniques of the original construction.