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Suggestions for Restoring Theaters

Do's and Don'ts for bringing Historic Theaters back to life

By Michael Schnoering, Mills + Schnoering Architecture

  • DO plan to spend a considerable amount of time planning. The more work you do at the start, the fewer problems you will have down the road.
  • DO undertake historic research: learn as much as you can about the building and the changes that have taken place over time.
  • DO involve the community as early as possible, particularly as you work to develop the program for the building. A broad constituency = broad support.
  • DO collaborate with other regional arts institutions to find synergies. n DO scrutinize donated services and goods: free is not always a bargain.
  • DO conduct exploratory probes. Examining the building structure and conditions to the greatest extent possible will help to minimize the chances of costly change orders later in the project.
  • DO investigate the special historic materials in your theater (decorative paint, acoustical treatments, etc.).
  • DO plan for access for all, in as many ways as possible.
  • DO consider engaging a fundraising consultant. You will be attempting to raise a significant amount of money, and you won’t get there by having a bake sale.
  • DO show progress. If you can’t take it all on at once, small projects build excitement and set the stage for larger efforts.
  • DON’T try to be all things to all people: define your mission and stick to it.
  • DON’T go it alone. Working together with an experienced architect and specialty consultants such as acousticians, lighting designers, and conservators will help ensure that you get the best guidance. TB

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