Jacob’s Pillow is excited to announce building plans for the reimagined Doris Duke Theatre, a flexible theatre on the site of the original Doris Duke Theatre, which was lost to a fire of undetermined cause in November 2020. In replacing what was lost while looking to the future, Jacob’s Pillow seeks to create a future-forward dance theatre as it looks ahead to its second century.
The new theatre’s design embraces the Pillow’s diverse history to create an accessible and inclusive space for dialogue, collaboration, and education. The new Doris Duke Theatre will maintain the intimacy of the former studio theatre while incorporating a new digital backbone. The ability for the facility to adapt to different programmatic needs as well as future technical upgrades will be key to the theatre’s purpose as a makerspace and digital lab, and will ensure long-term resiliency and future growth.
Mecanoo, led by Creative Director and Founding Partner Francine Houben, is serving as the lead architect for the new building project, in partnership with New York-based architecture firm Marvel, led by Jonathan Marvel, founding principal, as the architect of record and landscape architects. Theatre and acoustics consultants Charcoalblue are working alongside the architectural team on the project.
“For me, what was inspiring arriving at Jacob’s Pillow is the energy of the festival and experiencing performance in this unique natural setting,” said Francine Houben. “We wanted to make a building which embodied Indigenous principles of connecting with the land and thinking seven generations forward. The sequence of moving between outdoors and indoors and the sculptural layering of the building emphasizes the feeling of movement in space, while firmly rooted to the site in this special place in the Berkshires.”
The reimagined Doris Duke Theatre will be approximately 20,000 sq. ft., compared with the former Duke’s roughly 8,500 sq. ft. footprint. The design allows for multi-use flexibility so that the building can support performances, events, residencies, and more, sometimes simultaneously. The theatre will seat up to 230 patrons in the main performance space, with an array of seating and stage configurations.
The building will feature two lobbies with sliding doors, which will create multiple entrances and exits to the building. The lobby on the west side of the building will serve to welcome visitors in from the spacious artist quadrangle, and will also provide a covered and ventilated space for pre-show talks alongside a new exhibition space. The lobby on the east side of the building will serve as a warm-up and rehearsal space for artists, and can also host receptions and meetings as needed. Rainwater will be collected from the extensive green rooftops of the building to be reused for flushing toilets and irrigation. This embrace of the site and nature, balanced with a need to push the boundaries of dance, embodies the ambition for the theatre and captures the magic of performing at Jacob’s Pillow.
Contributions from Indigenous artists to the design will include visual art installations, a medicinal garden with local and indigenous plantings near the entrance of the building, and a fire pit for gatherings and celebrations. Jacob’s Pillow has continued to engage community members, artists, technicians, staff and Board members, and Indigenous stakeholders in workshops and engagement sessions to inform the design process.
The new Doris Duke Theatre will restore a second indoor theatre space for Jacob’s Pillow’s annual summer Dance Festival alongside the flagship Ted Shawn Theatre, and provide year-round studio space on the Pillow campus, in addition to the Perles Family Studio, which is home to The School at Jacob’s Pillow and the Pillow Lab, artist-in-residence program.