Bengt Sjostrom Starlight Theatre / Studio Gang Architects


Architect: Studio Gang Architects
Location: Rockford, IL, USA
Owner: Rock Valley College
Completion: 2003
Photographs: Greg Murphy


Rock Valley College wanted to develop a new regional facility for the performing arts at Starlight Theatre to replace an existing outdoor venue. Expanded facilities and a roof enclosure were needed so that performances could go on without the threat of rainouts. At the same time, there was a strong desire to maintain the sense of being outdoors. Encompassing over 135,000 S.F., the new theatre and lawn seating maintains 100% accessible pathways and strong visual connections to the surrounding campus. Under the folded, origami-like roof, an intimate social setting is created with a porous boundary to the landscape. The central theatre space forms an unexpected vertical axis to the sky; an observatory to the stars through a kinetic roof that opens in fair weather. Starlight has become a popular regional destination since its opening in 2003.


Working with a modest budget, the strategy was to design a building that could be constructed in phases over three years to allow the College to maintain their summer performance schedule. PHASE 1 included the expanded seating bowl that seats 1100, ticket building, toilet rooms, sculpted landscape and illuminated terraces. PHASE 2 included the copper-clad proscenium, its rigging and the 30′ x 60′ translucent sliding stage doors. PHASE 3 included the faceted roof structure of and . The kinetic center sections open upward like the petals of a flower in a helical order so that each roof petal overlaps its neighbor.

Cite: "Bengt Sjostrom Starlight Theatre / Studio Gang Architects" 05 Aug 2009. ArchDaily. Accessed 28 May 2015. <>
  • Happy_Robot

    Looks to me like a nice one )

  • David Basulto [tricky]

    Studio Gang has been doing a great work. Expect more projects from this young office in the next days ;)

  • public eye

    yeah, I love the idea of transforming the interior atmosphere into an outdoor one. Formally pleasing too. Great work!

  • sullka

    this is awesome!

    would love to see a detail on how “weather tight” the roof joints are when closed.

  • Dustin

    This is great but a detail would be awesome…

  • Jason

    This project looks great. It’s interesting to see architecture photographed being used… it’s so rare.

    I do have to say, however, that the drawings are some of the most horrible, generic, boring, pathetic drawing I have ever seen. Normally I love seeing drawings in addition to the photos, but PLEASE remove the drawings from this photo album!

  • Franco

    Agree. Details, please!

    A nice project.
    Don’t know if the acoustics is good though…

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  • Drewcore

    Hey glad to see this on here! I’ve been seeing shows here for years, and I can tell you the joints hold up great after seeing countless shows in our illinois summer downpours and getting drenched before the new structure. The approach to the theater is great passing along the illuminated wall and the layout makes from some very unique plays when utilized.

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  • alex

    what is this roof made out of? and is it possible to get a better floor plan drawing? the drawing here looks more like a site plan, or am i wrong?

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  • Steve

    I have actually been to this theater many times, and I can say from experience that this design is great. I’ve been once when it was raining, and didn’t get wet underneath. Usually they have the canopy open though.

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  • Yijun Wu

    I really want to see more detailed drawings from Studio Gang. Wish there would be a book introducing all the information.