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CounterPulse Theater

Universal Access Onstage and Off

A new home for a pioneering performing arts theater manifests the spirit of openness, inclusivity and community.

Moving On

After 10 years in San Francisco’s SoMa neighborhood, CounterPulse feared the clock was running out on its affordable lease. Fortunately, the Community Arts Stabilization Trust, an organization dedicated to keeping nonprofit arts groups in the city, approached CounterPulse to form a partnership. Through this alliance, CounterPulse leased to purchase a onetime vaudeville theater. Although rundown, the building provided a secure home in the theater district, close to downtown transit, and a chance to create a theater tailored to its renowned program of experimental performing arts.

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Red Carpet Treatment

A glass-clad lobby staircase links all three lobby levels and allows visitors to feel connected whether entering from the street or emerging from the lounge. The underside of the cascading theater seats forms the sloping ceiling of the ground-floor lobby, and is painted a vibrant red, to suggest an inverse red carpet. The wooden benches and nooks on the lobby and mezzanine levels extend the warm, inviting atmosphere.


Cozy but Welcoming

A major consideration was getting the most of the limited space while also providing an enhanced level of accessibility to support CounterPulse’s longstanding collaborations with underrepresented artist communities including the differently abled. JENSEN divided the lobby into two floors—a street-level lobby and basement lounge—with a mezzanine level overlooking the main entrance. Wheelchair seating is accommodated at all levels within the theater, which also offers unencumbered access to the stage.

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Bath Tile Drawing

Incubating Culture

The renovated main stage is a state-of-the-art, 115-seat theater. It can be set up as a traditional black box — or white, depending on a production’s needs. Upstairs is a flexible studio space with a bare wood floor and built-in sound system, well suited for meetings, rehearsals, workshops, and dance classes. The possibilities are many — and the events here are open to every visitor.

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San Francisco


2017 Inspirations Awards Honorable Mention


Fast Company, “How one arts organization saved itself when Twitter moved in next door,” March 2022
SF Weekly, “Venue Q. CounterPulse and the performance of queer resistance,” October 2017
Contract Magazine, “Competition: Inspiration Awards,” July/August 2017
SFGate, “CounterPulse is Step with Tech-Firm Neighbors,” October 2015
San Francisco Magazine, “Former Porn Palaces Have Terrific Bones,” October 2015
7x7, “CounterPulse Gets a New Home,” November 2013


Project Leads
Mark Jensen
Frank Merritt
Keri Goodlad
Andy Lin
Project Team
Kimberly Cinco
Andre Vilhena


Triangle Engineering
Mechanical, Electrical & Plumbing
MHC Engineering
Construction Manager
Ventura Partners
Theatrical & A/V
The Shalleck Collaborative


NCR Construction


Cesar Rubio
Scott Fin
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