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 wood and steel. The kinetic center sections open upward like the petals of a flower in a helical order so that each roof petal overlaps its neighbor.