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1412 I Street Northwest
Washington, DC, 20005
United States

With a professional working relationship spanning three decades, Gary F Martinez FAIA and Thomas E Johnson FAIA founded Martinez+Johnson Architecture in 1994 to bring their design sensitivities to institutional and cultural projects in urban locations. The 25-architect firm has since established an expertise in three main architectural areas – the restoration and adaptive reuse of historic structures, institutional buildings in urban areas and community settings, and the design and planning of performing arts venues.

Known for a thoughtful design approach to public facilities, M+J develops an intimate understanding of the needs of users, patrons, and operators destined to inhabit the projects of the firm. M+J looks to the future in their design aesthetic even when the context may be firmly rooted in the past and executes creative solutions to facilities both new and historic, where flexibility, ease of operation, and high but versatile performance characteristics are requisite. Venues express aspirational values and goals of the communities within which they are located, and at the same time conform to issues of economic value at the highest levels of environmental sustainability.

Charles Playhouse

Photos by richard gayle photography

 
 

Charles Playhouse

Boston, massachusetts


Originally a vaudeville house, this 1928 venue stands among the nation’s finest in opulence, extensive gilt, quality of detailing and is Boston’s only Thomas Lamb theatre. After closing in 1991, the project became trapped in an economic vise grip suffered by many historic performing arts venues. M+J worked with the owner to fully restore and carefully renovate this venue, in order to host Broadway style entertainment, among othersBroadway In Boston, Landlord of the Charles Playhouse in the theater district of Boston, retained Martinez+Johnson for improvements to this venue. Home to Blue Man Group and Shear Madness, the Playhouse is a staple in the Boston arts community, and is listed as an exterior landmark on the National Register of Historical Places.

 

Opportunity

The Charles Playhouse was originally built in 1839 as the Fifth Universalist Church by Asher Benjamin, a heralded “father” of Colonial American architecture. Over time, the building served as a religious temple, speakeasy, jazz club, casino, and function hall, but in the 1950s was shut down due to lack of patronage in the post-war years. Numerous attempts to resurrect the once-lively hall proved unsuccessful, until 1995, when Broadway In Boston purchased Charles Playhouse as the new home for Blue Man Group.

 

Creation

M+J’s scope of work included renovating both the second floor 499 seat theater for Blue Man Group and the 200 seat cabaret for Shear Madness. Both venues were made easily accessible with the installation of two lifts, wider doorways to accommodate wheelchairs, and a custom railing designed to enhance the theatrical experience while still providing safety. The lounge, lobby, and restrooms were demolished and remodeled with emphasis on space and new technology. The lobby’s ceilings were raised three feet, new lighting, sound systems, LCD screens, and equipment was added, and the main entry vestibule refreshed, including new double doors opening into the lounge area. The “Lounge-U-Lum” was remodeled as an introduction to the Blue Man Group show, incorporating tactile experiences, electronic instrumentation, and sophisticated animation, all for the audience to enjoy before and after the show. New energy efficient ADA compliant restrooms replaced small water closets, with the Design Team focusing on utilizing the compact space of the venue to its maximum potential.

In order to minimize show down-time and loss of ticket sales, the rehabilitation and redesign process was focused into 18 weeks, with a scheduled 2.5-week dark period for construction. Not a single show was missed, with tickets presold for performances after the reopening.


Owner: Broadway in Boston c/o Richard Jaffe

Completion: 2013

Size: 20,000SF

 
 
ONE AMAZING THING ABOUT THIS BUILDING IS THAT FOR 175 YEARS THE BOSTON COMMUNITY HAS COME HERE TO GATHER FOR A SHARED EXPERIENCE.

PEOPLE GATHER HERE AND HAVE A GREAT TIME.

ITS A MUCH BETTER EXPERIENCE FOR THE PATRONS COMING TO SEE THE SHOWS.

- Richard Jaffe | Broadway in Boston
 
 
 

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