Steppenwolf Theater

Location: Chicago, Illinois
Executive & Design Architect: Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture
General Contractor: Norcon
Status: Complete

When Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theatre set out to expand with a second theater and revamped community space, they turned to another Chicago great for the design, Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill. Their bold, ambitious vision included a new theater-in-the-round encased by an unusual, geometrically complex shape.

Building Blocks was brought into the design process early to evaluate glass fiber reinforced concrete (GFRC) as a facade solution. Ultimately, we had a hand in several critical design decisions. We helped determine the theater’s ideal color and texture through rounds of GFRC samples and provided constructability advice. Building Blocks worked with the project’s acousticians at Charcoalblue to design an acoustically sensitive custom GFRC cladding system. The final GFRC design provides the necessary sound dampening for state-of-the-art theater acoustics in a prefabricated cost-effective solution.

Building Blocks also manufactured and installed the new theater’s GFRC cladding wall system. Fabrication involved careful management of directionally contrasting formliners for surface texture and a variety of mold angles to create the complex, triangular panel geometry. As the central element of a larger campus, the theater’s GFRC facade serves as both an exterior barrier system and an interior feature within the glass-walled lobby.