The New Jacob’s Pillow Performing Arts Studio Is a Study in Cutting-Edge Design

September 1, 2017 | View Project |

At the New England HQ of a world-famous dance festival, a gorgeous high-tech building works hard to blend in.

Fall is approaching, but Jacob’s Pillow Dance, home to a world-famous summer festival, isn’t battening down. The Pillow, as the Becket, Massachusetts, dance venue is known, has just opened a new building that will allow it to host rehearsals, performances, and workshops all year long. David Croteau, the president of Boston-based Flansburgh Architects, said the building's design was inspired by the Pillow's existing facilities: a series of unheated, barn-like structures. 

He strove to make the new building fit in while incorporating modern technology, including double-glazed windows and a heat pump system. A cupola, or monitor, 30 feet above the floor, with windows that open automatically, will facilitate ventilation, minimizing the need for air conditioning. The building is made out of four kinds of wood—maple, fir, cedar and pine—most of it left untreated. It is centered on a 70-foot-by-50-foot dance floor (which allows for spectators around the 60-foot-by-40-foot floor that is typical for dance performances), but the building is no simple rectangle; angles dictated in part by topography make it look at once casual and contemporary.

Porches and barn doors connect it to its surroundings (a 220-acre National Historic Site), while its placement among large boulders and trees makes it feel like it's been there for ages. Croteau says that the barn style is timeless, which makes him “really hopeful" that the $5.5 million building won’t ever look dated. The building, known as the Perles Family Studio, will house the Pillow Lab, a series of residencies for 10 to 15 choreographers each year.

Article by Fred A. Berstein for Architecture + Design