profile / what is a theater consultant?
What Is It?
What do they do?
Is that all?
Why do I care?
What is an Assembly Space Consultant?
An Assembly Space Consultant is an individual or firm that provides design advice and direction to Architects and End Users regarding the functional aspects of a Place of Assembly, in the context of developing Construction Documents.
An Assembly Space Consultant, in a classic sense, is a Renaissance person. They must have enough Architecture, Structural, Mechanical, Electrical, Acoustic and Interior Design knowledge to understand the complex interactions within the building. They must know Seating systems, Human Response, Stagecraft, Dramatic Arts, Classical Music, Contemporary Music and many other technical and artistic disciplines in order to accurately marry the arts into the building and technical systems.
An Assembly Space Consultant is the liaison between the End User and the Architect to assist the Architect in accurately setting the space to reflect the essence and the functionality envisioned by the Owner.
What do they do?
Not all Assembly Spaces are Theaters. Some are Concert Halls, some are Community Centers and some are Houses of Worship. And the list doesn’t stop there. Each type of Assembly Space has a unique set of user requirements that will translate into a unique facility. While they may have certain things in common, e.g., a stage, seating, walls, lighting and a floor, the embodiment of those common items and the incorporation of any unique items can be very different between each type.
Performing Arts Center – Drama Emphasis
Performing Arts Center – Symphonic Emphasis
Performing Arts Center – Touring House
Community Center Multi-Purpose
House of Worship – Traditional Emphasis
House of Worship – Post-modern emphasis
An Assembly Space Consultant must understand the nuances of each space, the functions within and how best to design technical systems and advise the Architect (and other disciplines) on how to shape and develop the space to serve the particular range of needs.
Is that all?
It isn’t just about stage rigging, drapes, stage lighting and dimmers in a theater…
The Assembly Space Consultant must be proficient and pro-active in design and recommendations regarding the following Technical Systems, Furnishings and Building Elements:
Vertical and Lateral Audience Sight Lines
Aisles, Egress and Handicapped Accesibility
Catwalks and Galleries
HVAC placement and clearances
Backstage Space Planning
Equipment Loading and Circulation
Touring Show Requirements
Sprinkler System placement and clearances
Basic Acoustic Principles
…… and the list could go on and on for so many more items.
It isn’t the Assembly Space Consultant’s job to be the Architect. It is their job to advise the Architect on how to optimize the space for the intended functions. The Assembly Space Consultant must also design in great detail, the rigging, drapes, hoists, lifts, stage lighting, orchestra pit platforms, acoustic concert shell and other technical systems. But first and foremost, the entire facility must have an infrastructure that meets the need, and the Assembly Space Consultant’s charge is to assist the Architect in meeting that primary goal.
Structures and Attachments
Colors and Human Perception in Spaces
Traditional Liturgy (Houses of Worship)
Post-Modern Worship Perspectives (Houses of Worship)
Image Display Techniques
Techniques for Enhancing Community
Why do I care?
That is a fair and reasonable question. The job of an Assembly Space Consultant is not well understood within a large percentage of the professional design community. Thus, not all Architects are aware of the complete role. Unfortunately, modern places of assembly such as theaters and high-tech churches are very complex facilities to build. There are many different standard building systems and specialty technical systems that are all competing for the same real estate. Without planning, design and construction administration that understands the needs of construction and the needs of the particular assembly space, it far to common to find that the fruit of conflicts in the field result in either costly change orders or a compromise that diminishes the intended functionality of a system or of the whole space.
A full-service, experienced Assembly Space Consultant can become the best friend of the Architect, Contractor and Owner just by doing their job to the fullest degree. Costly change orders and design compromises can be significantly reduced by up-front design coordination and by taking a holistic approach to construction administration. Because of the breadth and depth of construction knowledge and usage of the various types of Assembly Spaces, the consultant can help the Architect “design-in” the right trades coordination and facility functionality (and construction cost efficiency) from the outset.
From the Contractor’s perspective when building a place of assembly, an Assembly Space Consultant with real-world working knowledge of construction techniques for multiple trades is a valuable asset when working out the details of the building. If the consultant is only well-versed in stage lighting systems and stage rigging systems, and NOT in multiple construction disciplines, then not much help can be counted on when things don’t quite line up in the field. And, that will always happen…
Places of Assembly are more than just lighting, sound and drapes. They are people spaces. They are complex construction projects with an abundance of opportunity for conflict. They have unique needs that vary by type, by usage, by shape, by size and by community. An Assembly Space Consultant must bring more to the table than just the design of a few technical systems. To be of maximum value, they must move and walk in all things design, deeply understand the realities of construction and blend practical reality with the freedom of imagination…. and do it within the budget!
PLA Designs, Inc is a full-service Assembly Space Consulting and Illumination Design firm. Our projects range from backwoods Visitor Interpretive Centers to 10,000 seat Worship Centers. We have designed and consulted on 100 seat Community theaters and 18,000 seat Amphitheaters. Our projects span over 24 states in the USA. We have been in business since 1986, and between our key individuals, cumulatively have nearly 60 years of diverse professional experience in construction design and consulting.
Just what is a Theater Consultant, and why do I need one? Read below for answers.
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