Prior Center for the Performing Arts, Worcester, MA, USA

Prior Center for the Performing Arts

The Prior Center for the Performing Arts for the College of the Holy Cross has been designed to be an incubator for multidisciplinary learning that supports creative collaboration among students from all academic disciplines. Standing as the cultural center of the school – with venues for both fine arts and performing arts – the building houses a 400-seat proscenium theatre, a 200-seat flexible studio space, and the relocated Cantor Art Gallery.

Anchoring the Upper District of campus, the Center gathers together existing vectors of campus circulation at its heart: the Beehive. Around this central space the programs are divided into four pavilions: the Multipurpose Theater for opera and music, the Studio Theater for drama, Art/Media, and Practice/Production. From the vantage point of the Beehive, production spaces such as the scene shop and multi-use practice rooms are visible next to refined performance spaces and the white box gallery, revealing the process of artistic output to the campus community.

Transsolar supported the design process by giving recommendations for the daylight quality in the key spaces. In addition the thermal performance was analyzed, including a study of the impact of downdraft on the tall glazed areas and a study of the potential for condensation in the double facade of the small rehearsal space.

To optimize the Beehive skylight shades detailed daylight studies showed which design variants distribute daylight evenly throughout the space while eliminating glare and solar gain. Visualizations proved that all glazed areas over 12 ft tall in the gallery, the large rehearsal space and the costume shop create excellent daylight, but can cause thermal discomfort due to downdraft. Transsolar also gave comfort recommendations related to solar radiation on the balcony and for the outside amphitheater.