Conceived as a new arts hub in a rapidly changing district near downtown Omaha, an
experimental theater opens to the city outdoors through a public open space anchored with a mixed-use building. Three related projects share an integrated half-block to transform the
relationship of cultural facilities and public / private space towards a collective urbanism. These are buildings and spaces that will transform through inhabitation.
On a sloping site, the architects combine a 13,000 sf. facility for Blue Barn with Boxcar 10, a
10,000 sf. restaurant / residential building and a 7,500 sf. public open space, owned by the
Theatre. Though designed for separate owners, the projects share a common language and a
unified site strategy including innovative storm water retention / reuse and unconventional
materials. From the onset, the developers and architects envisioned a collective and
collaborative approach to this urban environment embracing the precision programming
required (theater, restaurant, housing…) with a loose approach to team formation and project
resolution (spaces and structures will transform over time). Thus, we held an open competition to select the landscape design team for the open space. For Blue Barn, the architects commissioned 4 artists to develop functional building elements as art works.
Challenged to design a building to theater increase capacity while maintaining the risk-taking ethos of the Blue Barn, our goal is to enact an exciting urban environment out of the highly specific / technical requirements of the theater while promoting programmatic and material improvisation. At the core of the theater is a 1000 sq. ft. stage and 96-seat house, a hybrid of proscenium and black box types. The Blue Barn seeks to mediate the technical and functional demands of a modern theater, a desire for openness and engagement with the city, and the excitement of continual and unpredictable evolution.