Gardner Theatre

Pennsylvania’s Lancaster Country Day School has long sought a whole-school venue to host performances and assemblies for the school and surrounding community. That is being realized in a new Gardner Theater wing for LCDS’s performing arts. Centerbrook collaborated with Pennsylvania-based Murray Associates Architects on the project, which is targeted to open in time for the 2020-21 academic year.


Lancaster Country Day School

Location Lancaster, PA
Size 16,000 Sq. Ft.
Program theater, black box theater, support spaces
Year Completed 2020
Photo Credit Centerbrook
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The Gardner Theater will be advanced, with 580 seats, an orchestra pit, state of the art lighting and acoustics, and fly space. With a full-sized stage and professional theater fittings, the $13 million facility will host the school’s musical and theatrical performances, graduation, and lectures. Its sophisticated acoustics are designed to support a full range of shows, from the spoken word to Lancaster’s symphony orchestra.

Technical elements, like the overhead catwalks that are railed and accessed from staircases, are designed with safety in mind so that students will participate in all elements of theatrical production, from lighting to scenery at a professional level. LCDS feels this hands-on experience is invaluable preparation for college theater programs.

Mark Simon, principal at Centerbrook noted, “We faced a challenge to accommodate both large and small groups while keeping the place from feeling too large, or too small. So, we arrayed seating in shallow tiers and a small mezzanine to break the audience into comfortable segments. We also used warm materials to make the large room feel intimate.”

The theater walls are finished in white oak panel bands that angle in and out of plane amplify acoustics and hide indirect lighting. The exterior of the building follows the school’s tradition of white walls with horizontal banding.

LCDS’s current performance venue, the 50-year-old Steinman Theatre, will be renovated for black box-style productions and as a rehearsal space. In keeping with the school’s objective to use all of its spaces as resourcefully as possible, adjacent spaces like classrooms and the gym, will serve double duty as green rooms and support for theater productions, reducing the project’s overall size and cost.

The Gardner Theater is the second project that Centerbrook has designed with Murray Associates for Country Day. The 31,000-square-foot Physical Education & Athletics Center opened in the fall of 2017. They designed that with the future Gardner in mind to share a lobby and other public facilities with the Athletics Center. The existing lobby is slightly bigger to handle the larger audiences.

“The new theater will put our performing arts program in a league of its own and make Lancaster Country Day an arts education innovator. We are beyond excited!” Kristin Wolanin, LCDS Theater Faculty
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