How a theater’s hidden structure was discovered and integrated, adding memorable details to its new use.
The Takoma Theater was constructed in 1923 in the Takoma Park, D.C. neighborhood as an amenity for local residents. Designed in a Greek Revival style by the noted theater architect John Jacob Zink, the original brick masonry and steel‐trussed structure has remained a centerpiece of the neighborhood, serving as a working movie theater until 1980. After 2 decades of independent ownership and unsuccessful schemes for redevelopment, Cunningham | Quill was retained by the current owner to restore and adaptively reuse the theater for office and retail use.
The designer's challenge was to preserve the integrity of the building’s iconic head house and vaulted roof while adding much needed daylight to the two new floors of office medical space.
The exploratory demolition of the interior revealed what would be a defining feature of the design: a
large steel skeleton structure wrapped in masonry with unusual cross‐bracing along the entire east and
west facades. The steel bracing was located exactly where new windows were planned. Rather than
complex changes to the building’s framework, the designers and Client embraced this unexpected
condition. By keeping the new design intact, hints of the theater’s original structure are revealed along the street facing windows. Once inside, the steel trusses are exposed over the second floor office and meeting rooms and highlighted by a series of new large scaled skylights that run down the center of the original vaulted ceiling. As a result, what might have been a setback was celebrated, and leaves visitors with a memorable impression of the historic building.