Paramount Theatre

Cedar Rapids, Iowa
  • 2016 • American Institute of Architects, Iowa Chapter
    Craft Award
  • 2014 • American Institute of Architects, Central States Region
    Merit Award
  • 2014 • Architizer
    A+ Award
  • 2013 • American Institute of Architects, Iowa Chapter
    Honor Award
  • 2013 • 30th Annual Reconstruction Awards, Building Design + Construction
    Silver Award

In 1928 the city of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, celebrated the opening of the Paramount Theatre. The elegant and opulent theater was among the finest venues in America and a shining example of extraordinary craftsmanship. In June 2008, a devastating flood swept through Cedar Rapids. The Paramount Theatre lay directly in its path and the theater was flooded to an elevation of approximately eight feet above the main street level. The theater was severely damaged by water and debris.

In the fall of 2008, the City of Cedar Rapids contracted OPN Architects, Inc. to plan and oversee the renovation of the Paramount Theatre. Among the City’s most important goals was to insure that the theater would be restored in a manner that honored the building’s rich history and cultural significance. This large, complex project required extensive preliminary research and analysis to identify the materials and techniques used to create the original elements. A team of experts was brought in to examine and restore the building’s historic features. Among these features were:

  • Elaborate and highly articulated plaster forms and details on nearly every interior surface
  • Marezzo scagliola plaster designed to simulate elegant stone
  • Aluminum leaf, paints and glazes in sophisticated color combinations and patterns
  • Grand crystal chandeliers and delicate stained-glass light fixtures, all hand crafted and assembled by highly-skilled artisans
  • An iconic “one-of-a-kind” Wulitzer organ featuring a finely detailed and extravagantly decorated console which historians have referred to as a “singular work of art”

While restoring the building, the design team also made significant improvements to the theater including:

  • Seating improvements
  • Improved acoustics and lighting
  • Improved gathering spaces including reception and lounge areas
  • Expanded orchestra pit
  • Expanded stage house & wing space
  • Improved loading area & back-of-house
  • Exterior improvements

The restored theater opened to the public with a ribbon cutting ceremony on October 26, 2012.

This project was designed in collaboration with historic preservation experts Martinez and Johnson Architecture

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