Architect: Isthmus Architecture, Inc.
Owner: Al. Ringling Theatre Friends, Inc.
Contractor: Joe Daniels Construction Co.
The rehabilitation of this historic landmark theatre returns an important cultural icon to its original elegance while incorporating a complete upgrade of building systems and new technology. The intimate 785-seat Al. Ringling Theatre, constructed in 1915, is widely acknowledged as the first complete example of the American Movie Palace. Through extensive research, thoughtful collaborative design and careful integration of new technology, the successful rehabilitation and restoration revitalizes the theatre into a highly efficient, sustainable and much more comfortable facility. Beginning with a comprehensive Historic Structure Report, the overall project focused on the restoration of all the elaborate historic elements, providing code compliant life safety upgrades, tightening of the thermal envelope, expanding public restrooms and improving universal accessibility. The central portion of the roof at the auditorium was replaced to mitigate further damage of the extensive gilded plasterwork, hand-painted canvas murals and fire curtain, and lavish velvet draperies on the interior. A staff of decorative finishes specialists and several conservators were on site fulltime to restore the interior. The original interior lighting and the prominent entrance marquee were carefully restored. The theatre reopened with a sold-out performance. Reflecting the strong community support and value of state and federal tax incentives, the rehabilitation ensures the ongoing viability of a significant local gem of American culture.
Jury Comment: “This is a beautiful execution of a thoughtful and incredibly sensitive restoration of an important building. It lets the building continue to be the star. It is really good architectural work that too often does not get the recognition it deserves. The project was intellectually driven. It feels celebratory, like the architecture of joy, where everyone involved couldn’t wait to get to work.”
Photos: Bill Johnsen