Marion Oliver McCaw Hall

Seattle, Washington

Project Size:

Renovated area: 280,000 square feetSeating capacity: 2900 seats

Project Status:

Completed 2003


Arts + Culture, Interior Design


Renovated McCaw Hall to Blur Boundaries of Performer, Audience

Architectural Record, 8/1/00

Transformation of the Seattle Opera House

Auditoria, 6/1/03

Opera Gets a New Home a Few Blocks from Rock

The New York Times, 7/1/03

Seattle Opera Gamble: The Results Are In - The New Auditorium is Acoustically Excellent

The New York Times, 8/1/03

The Seattle Opera House: From Brick Box to Jewel Box

The Wall Street Journal , 8/1/03

Selected Awards

2006 AIA Northwest & Pacific Region

Honor Award

2004 AIA Seattle Chapter

Honor Award

2004 Business Week/Architectural Record


2004 IES International Illumination Design

Merit Award

2004 IESLA Lumen West

Award of Excellence

2003 AIA Washington Council

Civic Design Awards, Honor Award

2003 Illuminating Engineering Society, New York Chapter

Lumen Citation

2001 AIA Seattle

What Makes It Green? Sustainable Design Award

The extroverted expression of the architectural design embodies the classic forms of theater, re-interpreted in a contemporary architectural medium. An array of scrims and a 5-story glass wall define the new lobby with compositions of multi-colored light to cast a series of visual events—inviting the entire community to participate.  Nine large-scale metal mesh scrims frame the promenade between Phelps Center and McCaw Hall, and feature Dreaming in Color by Leni Schwendinger, a programmed lighting installation that sequences across the scrims slowly changing color to reflect various moods.

The theatrical experience continues into the lobby through a progression of space defined by overlapping curvilinear shapes and interactive modulation of light. The metal scrims visually interweave interior and exterior space and frame a grand stair that rises four stories within the lobby. Moving into the auditorium, materiality and color become progressively deeper in hue, culminating at the proscenium—and the performance it frames.

Working from the structure of an existing concert hall, sightlines were dramatically improved by narrowing the audience chamber. New side-wall boxes were added as well as a pair of seating “wings” which sweep up from the orchestra level and engage an extended first tier balcony. The perforated volume captured at this side-wall condition, washed in deep glow of red light, forms both an acoustic reverberation chamber and audience circulation zone, creating a luminous, dramatic expression as a prelude to the performance experience.