Sited at the edge of campus, planning also included a new entry point into the campus core.
The new building complements Groton's remarkably cohesive campus of memorable Georgian buildings and formal Olmsted-designed landscape.
The entry lobby reveals the arts activities within.
The lobby maximizes public space and circulation.
An intimate performance space, the furthest seats in both the orchestra and balcony are only 40 feet from the stage.
State-of-the-art lighting, acoustical and safety equipment is included in both the main and black box theatres.
The scene shop is located at the rear of the building.
The flexible workshop theatre seats 80-125, depending on its use and configuration.
Campbell Performing Arts Center, Groton School
Groton, Massachusetts
To create a truly flexible container to support a thriving arts program, as well as create a destination for the entire student body as an assembly space, the program for this new arts center includes a highly adaptable 460-seat main theater, a 125-seat workshop theater, and supporting spaces for the school’s curricular mission.

A consistency of masonry materials and a strong organizational device in the main campus oval (designed by Frederick Law Olmsted) contribute to the formal character of the campus. In order to mediate scale, the building was sited to include a new entry road on the eastern edge and formal gates into the core of the campus fabric. A gently curving lobby form utilizes an expansive plane of glass, supported by masonry piers. A lantern-like tower closest to the main pedestrian path beckons the student body into the arts experience.

Supporting an experientially based program, all of the spaces are designed for multiple uses. The main theater may be configured in a variety of experimental configurations. A 20’ x 40’ proscenium, with proportions of a dance theater, is supported by a forestage that can thrust 14 feet beyond the proscenium. Seats in the first two rows are removable to allow flexible staging. Differing levels of pit fillers can be added, allowing the users to move almost one-third of the way into the orchestra level. Additionally, the side boxes flow into the stage and project into the audience. This allows the edges to double as stage area and also facilitates access. Removable railings are used in both the pit and side boxes. A deep stage, with the scene shop to the rear, facilitates moving large sets and installations.

Underscoring the primacy of the student experience, the interior spaces create an intimate and supportive learning environment. Acoustics in the main theater are tuned so students do not have to be amplified, with the goal of building confidence in the presentation role. The shallow fan-shaped seating arrangement, where the furthest seat in both the orchestra and balcony are only 40 feet from the stage, also helps the audience and performer become intimately connected. With a foreshortened two-story balcony, the house feels full in a variety of configurations.

A workshop theater, seating 80-125, depending on how it is used, supports the main theater. A full control room, resilient performance floor, and suspended pipe system with full catwalk access allows students to create multiple environments. Throughout the theaters, catwalks and ladders are designed with strong safety considerations to ensure student participation and learning. The tension between formal and informal, fixed and flexible, technical and creative, serves as a strong teaching device for students’ first, formative theater experience.




35,000 SF


Peter Vanderwarker