Ballantyne Auditorium

Cedar Rapids, Iowa

Kirkwood Community College hired OPN Architects to update and renovate the college’s singular auditorium to transform the original 1970s-era gray, uninviting, and worn auditorium into a warm, comfortable, and intimate space that would enhance the experience for both the audience and the performers.

The impetus for the project was the client’s desire to make it easier for patrons to navigate the space. The solution was replacing the previously sloped floor with tiered rows. The 400 seats are separated into orchestra and loge sections by a primary cross aisle running the width of the auditorium. Four additional aisles — two at the center and two on either side — maximize accessibility without sacrificing views.
The entire design focused on acoustic integrity and functional adaptability. The proscenium is flanked by dark solid stone on both sides to maximize sound reflection, while the rear of the house combined a sound-absorbing wood lattice and an adjustable acoustical curtain. Under-performing sound reflectors were removed, adding volume to the space. The existing catwalks were rebuilt with perforated metal surfaces to allow sound to move through the space unobstructed.

The formerly triangular stage apron was transformed into a friendlier arc, which is projected into the seating. Other aesthetic improvements included refinishing the stage floor and replacing curtains. New air conditioning and heating systems, lighting, rigging and sound systems, combine for an overall superior theater-going experience at Ballantyne.

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