Davis Architecture receives Top Block Award for design of UM’s Performing Arts Center

After five years of plans, designs and construction, The University of Montevallo’s (UM) new Center for the Arts has opened.

Construction plans began in late September of 2017 and took roughly 27 weeks, including review and final coordination, before getting bids in March of 2018.  Ground was broken in June 2018 and completed August 2020.  The long construction period was complicated due to wet weather in the initial stages of excavation and foundation work, as well as Covid.

The design was a collaborative effort of a design team led by Neil Davis (Davis Architecture) as the project designer, Don Cosper as architect project manager, and Andrew Taylor as the project architect, along with Stephanie Pope and Kathleen Cowley as the interior designers.  Theatre Consultants Collaborative was the technical consultant and Creative Acoustics was the acoustician. 

“We wanted to create a main stage theater unlike any in the State of Alabama which led the design into an ‘immersive’ direction, similar to new professional theaters being built in many major cities such as Chicago and New York,” explains Cosper. “Immersive theaters are very much exposed from house to fly space with visible interior vertical circulation, exposed steel, and concrete masonry units (CMUs), without the typical “proscenium” like older theaters had, allowing the theater director and his team to customize the stage into a unique look for every production.”

The 36,750-square-foot building is located at the intersection of Oak Street and North Boundary Street and is unique among collegiate facilities in the state of Alabama. It brings together many academic disciplines previously spread out across multiple buildings on the UM campus and serves as a prime resource for the Montevallo community and Shelby County.

Concrete masonry is the perfect product for theaters

“All theaters need to be able to acoustically contain sound and also to prevent sound infiltration into the space,” explains Don Cosper with Davis Architects. “Concrete masonry units are an excellent material for sound isolation and sound containment.”

For the theater, the exposed painted CMUs provided a look consistent with the other exposed materials.

When a material is necessary to provide the mass and density needed in isolation between the various production spaces, and to prevent infiltration of outside sound, concrete block is more versatile and economical than poured concrete.

“Density, especially with filled block, economy and the ease of construction of curved and angled walls incorporated as part of the acoustic solution to the theatre all make CMUs an excellent material for this theater,” says Cosper.

The Center is a one-of-a-kind, 21st century teaching and learning Collaboratory for the arts and communication and is a unique and exceptional addition to the UM campus.

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