Tobin Center for the Performing Arts - Interior

Tobin Center for the Performing Arts


San Antonio, Texas


Tobin Center for the Performing Arts

Collaborators +

Associate Architect: Marmon Mok Architecture

General Contractor: Linbeck Group

Acoustics: Akustiks

Theater Planning: Fisher Dachs Associates

Structural Engineering: Walter P. Moore

MEP Engineering: Timmons Design Engineers

Civil Engineering: Pape Dawson

Landscape Architecture: Mesa Design Group

Lighting Design: Horton Lees Brogden Lighting Design

Graphics/Signage: Sussman / Prejza & Company, Inc.

Historic Renovation: Fisher Heck Architects

Project Size

New area: 157,000 square feet

Renovated area: 26,000 square feet

Seating Capacity

1,762 performance hall / 231 studio theater/ 600 seat outdoor plaza

Project Status



Architecture, Interior Design, Planning, Renovation + Adaptive Reuse

Combining one of San Antonio’s most beloved architectural icons with advanced technology to create one of the most flexible multi-purpose performance halls in the United States, the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts embraces the multi-faceted cultural identity of the city with a complex tapestry of form, materiality, light, and landscape. Drawing inspiration from San Antonio’s rich vernacular of color, pattern, and public celebration, this “performing arts center for everyone” offers a diverse architectural experience capable of continuous transformation in response to changing audiences, uses, and surroundings.

The aspirations for the renovation/expansion project were threefold: to create a large, flexible, multi-use performance space with acoustics comparable to the world’s finest concert halls; to renew the Spanish Colonial style historic building for future generations; and to create a vibrant connection between the city’s main cultural venue and the River Walk. While retaining the Municipal Auditorium’s treasured historic façade, the Tobin Center weaves a new 183,000-square foot facility into its framework of public space—including a 1,768-seat main performance hall, a 231-seat studio theater, and a 600-seat event plaza.

Themes of transformation, adaptability, and diversity come to their fullest expression in the H-E-B Performance Hall. The room can rapidly change seating and stage geometry, lighting, color, and acoustics to suit the unique qualities and objectives of each performance—in effect giving the city many venues in one and providing local arts groups with unlimited possibilities to attract new audiences with innovative programming.

Photography: Andy Crawford, Ed LaCasse, Mark Menjivar, Siggi Ragnar, The Tobin Center, Brandon Watts

Tobin Center for the Performing Arts - Exterior

The diverse program expansion called for a grand, unifying design gesture, combining new and old architectural components. The solution—an all-encompassing metallic veil—sculpturally expresses and celebrates the cultural life of contemporary San Antonio with references to the filigreed forms of Spanish Colonial ironwork, the delicate lace of festival costumery and the filtered daylight of the River Walk landscape. As night falls and the River Walk transitions into a festival-like atmosphere, embedded LEDs are choreographed with the evening’s performance.

Tobin Center for the Performing Arts - Exterior
Tobin Center for the Performing Arts - Exterior

The new event plaza connects the site for the first time with the River Walk’s network of walkways along the San Antonio River, positioned one-story lower than the streets of downtown. The high glass entrance lobby to the Alvarez Family Studio Theater overlooks the plaza, creating strong linkages between the different venue elements as an integral aspect to the arrival experience from the river.

Selected Awards

2018 Texas Society of Architects Design Award

2016 Urban Land Institute Global Award for Excellence

2016 AIA Washington Council Civic Design Awards, Award of Merit

2016 AIA San Antonio Mayor’s Choice Award

2016 AIA San Antonio Honor Award

2012 AIA Washington Council Civic Design Awards, Citation Award, Unbuilt Category

2012 Chicago Athenaeum, American Architecture Award