Arena Stage at the Mead Center for American Theater revitalized two acoustically-deficient heritage theatres and added an experimental “cradle” theatre, doubling the company’s previous facilities and spurring development in the surrounding neighbourhood. A primary design concern was the theatres’ proximity to a national airport; performances were regularly disrupted by jets’ noisy takeoffs.

Project Essentials

  • LocationWashington, DC
  • ClientArena Stage at the Mead Centre for American Theater
  • ArchitectRevery Architecture (Bing Thom Architects)
  • Size200,000 ft² (18,600 m²)
  • BudgetUSD $135 million

The structure is primarily cast-in-place concrete, including the elliptically-sloping curved walls of the new cradle theatre. Building off one of Fast + Epp’s and earlier projects in Surrey, British Columbia (at Surrey Central City), the design team wrapped the three venues in a glass curtain wall, using 15m- to 18m-high parallel strand lumber column supports to carry the 200m-long double-glazed façade and dramatic cantilever roof. Fast + Epp completed the design while StructureCraft, the design-build company focused on the fabrication and assembly of the complex timber facade.

Engineers developed custom column casting connections, concentrating up to 400,000 lbs of the roof loads on a single point and metaphorically referencing a ballerina’s slipper. Moreover, lateral forces from the large roof and façade were focused into the concrete walls of the new cradle theatre, eliminating the need for visually-disturbing bracing along the length of the façade.


  • WoodWorks USA

    2012 Eastern North American Wood Design Award - Engineering Design

  • National Council of Structural Engineers Associations, USA

    2011 Excellence in Structural Engineering for New Buildings Over $100 Million

  • Association of Consulting Engineering Companies British Columbia

    2011 Award of Excellence