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1412 I Street Northwest
Washington, DC, 20005
United States

(202) 333-4480

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.

MSU Riley Center + Grand Opera

photos by whitney cox

 
 

Mississippi state university riley center for education + Performing arts And Grand Opera House

meridian, mississippi


A major component in the emergence of Meridian, MS as a cultural destination is the restoration of the c1891 Grand Opera House and the conversion of the interlocking c1890’s Marks, Rothenberg Department Store and Newberry Building into The Riley Center. The buildings had been out of use for many years and the vision of this complex was developed by a variety of interested parties until finally, Mississippi State University wished to provide a center for education and the performing arts. The project received federal funding and as such was subject to Federal and State Preservation review.

 

Opportunity

The primary charge was to transform the Grand Opera House into a modern facility and to plan an educational center around it. Martinez+Johnson addressed the operational complexities of diverse, overlapping activities in a Master Planning phase that engaged all the identifiable stakeholders. The theatre was updated for its new time and purpose, M+J assigned appropriate new uses to existing spaces, and the team created new areas as required. The entire structure needed new building systems; the theatre, event, and educational rooms required additional performance systems, structural stabilization of the existing exterior walls with acoustical isolation took place, and M+J developed egress capacity and fire separations in an old building that never had them.

 

Creation

The venue was fully modernized, including front-of-house and patron support spaces. Back-of-house areas were rebuilt and expanded due to their capacity and condition. The new stagehouse became a concrete box suspended within the brick and wood outer envelope and the theatre now sits above a new lobby, kitchen, and rehearsal area. M+J restored or recreated dozens of late 19th century materials, and a complicated life safety strategy was developed to all the buildings to work together as a synergetic whole. The project owes much of its success to a rich continuing dialogue with the National Park Service and the Mississippi Department of Archives and History.


Owner: Mississippi State University c/o Dr bev norment

Completion: 2007

Size: 49,000SF

Cost: $33M

AWARDS: 2008 Mississippi Heritage Trust – Heritage Award of Excellence

2008 SCUP – Merit Award for Excellence in architecture for Restoration

 
 
THE RESULT BELIES THE COMPLEXITY OF THE PROCESS.

THE RESTORED OPERA HOUSE SEEMS EFFORTLESSLY TO PROVIDE THE BEAUTY, COMFORT, SAFETY, AND FUNCTIONALITY NEEDED FOR AUDIENCES AND PERFORMERS IN TOURING SHOWS, DANCE TROUPES, SMALL OPERAS, SYMPHONIC MUSIC, AND OTHER PERFORMING ARTS.

Architecture DC | Spring 2010
 
 
 

more culture + education