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.

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.

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.

Type
Cultural
Client
CounterPulse
Location
San Francisco

Awards

2017 Inspirations Awards Honorable Mention

Press

Contract Magazine, July/August 2017
SFGate, October 2015
San Francisco Magazine, October 2015
7x7, November 2014

Architects

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

Consultants

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

Contractor

NCR Construction

Photographer

Cesar Rubio