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Foyer fantastique: Faded images provide the key to a historic theater's lobby restoration

The restoration relied heavily on historic photos and drawings.

November 15, 2017 |
Cleveland's Ohio Theatre

The project team for Cleveland’s Ohio Theatre used archived drawings and photographs like the one in the inset to create coloration and design renderings for the restoration of the lobby.

The Ohio Theatre, which opened in 1921, is one of four historic theaters in Cleveland’s Playhouse Square, the largest renovated theater district in the U.S. A fire destroyed the Ohio in 1964, and its latest reconstruction rectifies some incompatible remodeling of the past to restore the theater’s lobby to its prior grandeur.

The restoration relied heavily on historic photos and drawings (archived at Columbia University) by the theater’s original designer, Thomas Lamb.

The project team created a coloration and design rendering of the lobby by overlaying a historic black-and-white image. Historic photos helped recreate the pattern of the original carpet, as well as three of the original 30x10-foot murals that mimicked the style of French baroque artist Nicolas Poussin. Photos were used to determine the original height of the balustrade, which needed to be raised and reconfigured to meet current code.

The centerpiece of the restoration is the lobby’s 150-foot-long ceiling. The Building Team went with a light-gauge ceiling system suspended from the roof structure. Attached to the bottom of the framing is a layer of continuous sheet metal blocking, to which large ornamental plater panels were screwed and glued.

The team, led by architect DLR Group | Westlake Reed Leskosky, used 2D drawings overlaid with clay, high-res images, and a small section of charred plaster cornice that survived the fire to reproduce the molds for the ceiling’s plaster ornamentation. HVAC diffusers and a new fire sprinkler system were integrated into the design.

The project team for owner/developer Playhouse Square had to work around elements that weren’t original to the lobby, like the house manager’s office and a staircase that leads to the Kennedy Cabaret Theatre. The restoration introduced new elements, too, such as a family/ADA-compliant restroom and new concession areas.


Project Summary


Gold Award Winner

Building Team: DLR Group | Westlake Reed Leskosky (submitting firm, architect, MEP, SE, IT/telecomms, lighting) The Coniglio Company (site manager) EverGreene Architectural Arts (owner consultant) Turner Construction Co. (CM).

Details: 7,500 sf. Construction cost: $6.3 million. Construction time: July 2015 to May 2016. Delivery method: CM.


See all of the 2017 Reconstruction Award winners here

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