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Eight Extraordinary Facts About Arena Stage's Architecture

[All photos by Gerry Suchy]

On Friday, a handful of architects and other interested parties gathered into the Kogod Cradle Theatre inside of Arena Stage to learn about some of the unique architectural elements of Waterfront's standout structure. Architect Brian Ackerman of Bing Thom Architects and engineer Gerald Epp of Fast + Epp spoke to their role in the construction of the theatre and particularly the use of wood in that construction. Since not everyone has three and a half disposable hours on a Friday morning to learn about exciting theatrical architecture, the most exciting factoids from the discussions can be found after the jump.

· The original building that Arena Stage first used in the 1960s, the Fichandler Stage, is still there. The larger structure that's visible today encompasses it. Note the blue roof visible in one of the photos.

· Although the renovated Fichandler Stage does not appear to have changed much, there has been a second catwalk added so that the audience can better hear the actors that are facing away.

· One of the inspirations behind Arena Stage's glass exterior with wood columns right inside is Central City in Vancouver.

· There's a trick to making all those interior wood columns look uniform. They were constructed by mixing long shards of wood with glue and then shaped into the cylinders you see today.

· The fact that the wood columns are smaller at the bottom is not an accident, it's meant to resemble a ballet slipper en pointe.

· The curved wood inside the Kogod Cradle has that unique look because it was steamed first, which made the wood pliable and capable of bending.

· Although engineer Gerald Epps has worked extensively in the Pacific Northwest, he says this is the only building of his that's ever been tested by an earthquake.

· The Arena Stage as it is now opened in October 2010. But the intense snowstorm of February 2010 (when they were in the middle of hanging wood beams on the ceiling) helped them realize that their gutter detail also functioned effectively as a snow stop detail.
· Arena Stage [Official Site]
· WoodWorks [Official Site]