Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival And Studio Gang Unveil Design For HVSF's First Permanent Home

hudson valley shakespeare festival and studio gang unveil design for hvsf’s first permanent home

By: Nov. 28, 2023
Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival And Studio Gang Unveil Design For HVSF's First Permanent Home

Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival And Studio Gang Unveil Design For HVSF's First Permanent Home

Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival (HVSF) (Davis McCallum, Artistic Director; Kendra Ekelund, Managing Director) and architecture and urban design practice Studio Gang have unveiled the design for HVSF's new home, which will be the first purpose-built LEED Platinum theater in the United States. Located in Garrison, NY, the 13,850 square foot design will serve as a permanent home for HVSF, the beloved New York theater company known for its sweeping open-air productions of classics and new works that are set against the backdrop of the Hudson River and the surrounding landscape. The new structure is the centerpiece of HVSF's commitment to sustainability and responsible stewardship of the 98-acre campus that has been gifted to the company.


Creating a transformative new theatrical destination for New York and the wider performing arts community and a cultural anchor for the Hudson Valley, the design provides the company with greater versatility for its actors, audiences, and back-of-house operations and will extend the viable performance season into the fall. Bringing nature and art closer together, the theater's curved, timber-framed grid shell and timber columns emerge from the landscape to create a dialogue with the Hudson Highlands. The stage's proscenium arch is carefully oriented to frame picturesque views of the Wey-Gat (or “Wind Gate”) of Storm King Mountain, the Hudson River, and Breakneck Ridge, and allows the actors to utilize the existing topography to emerge from the landscape.


Landscape elements are also integrated into the theater's architecture: outdoor gathering spaces adjacent to the theater encourage visitors to connect with each other in an extraordinary natural setting, while a nearby overlook offers an intimate space for pre- and post-performance programming. HVSF is targeting groundbreaking for 2024.


“HVSF is such a beloved cultural institution, with a truly unique natural setting in the Hudson Valley,” said Studio Gang Founding Principal and Partner, Jeanne Gang. “Our design aims to help the company build on their strengths, with low-carbon architecture that improves daily functionality and amplifies the traditions that define their open-air performances—like the spectacular proscenium arch framing an iconic Hudson River view—as well as create new opportunities for audiences and actors to interact before and after the show. The ecology of the site also receives a new level of care, replacing a monocultural lawn with a biodiverse landscape that brings resiliency, wildlife, and seasonal beauty for all to enjoy.”


“HVSF was given the extraordinary opportunity — and challenge — to establish a permanent home that considered not only the future of our theater and the American theater at large, but also the urgent need to reexamine our relationship with nature,” said Artistic Director Davis McCallum. “Studio Gang and the team have met the moment with a design that is not only visually stunning, but also supremely functional and sustainable in every sense. Their inspired work will reconnect us with the roots of open-air theater, emphasizing the interplay between the actors, the audience, the play and the place.” 


Since its first season in 1987, HVSF's productions have been staged in a collection of temporary tents at Boscobel House and Gardens overlooking the Hudson River and, more recently, on the grounds of HVSF's new home in the hills above. The new design elevates the overall theatrical experience for both actors and audiences through improved rehearsal, performance, and amenity spaces; expanded accessibility for all visitors; and technical additions that open new opportunities for HVSF productions. The landscape design by Nelson Byrd Woltz replaces the site's water-intensive former golf course with restored native grasses and wetlands that support biodiversity and decrease resource use. HVSF was gifted the land in 2020 by philanthropist Chris Davis, with the dual purpose of establishing a permanent home for the company and permanently preserving the 98-acre site for future generations.


Anchored by an open-air theater, the program is spread across several pavilions that include a back-of-house facility, a concession building, and standalone public restrooms. Each pavilion is clad in natural materials that evoke the minerality of the region. The landscape is designed as an experiential sequence, as visitors, upon arrival, encounter a mix of unpaved and accessible paths that guide them up and through a hillside meadow leading to picnic lawns and the theater plaza, which unites all the pavilions. The design employs several features to enhance environmental performance, including natural ventilation and brise soleil systems, low embodied carbon structure and cladding, rooftop solar panels, and an extensive green roof, among others. Through its care for the environment, and the planet more broadly, the design aims to ensure the company's productions and the diversity of the natural world remain center stage for many seasons to come. 


HVSF is also the recent recipient of a New York State Council on the Arts (NYSCA) $10 million grant, as part of NYSCA's 2023 Capital Improvement Grants for Arts and Culture. This allocation represents one of the largest expressions of support by NYSCA in the state, marking a milestone achievement for HVSF as it receives capital funding from NYSCA for the first time. The fund's purpose is to provide resources to cultural institutions for capital improvements that will enable them to expand and sustain diverse programming, enhance accessibility and environmental sustainability, generate and preserve jobs, and contribute to the growth of New York's arts organizations. A significant portion of the grant will be used to support the construction of the theater, as well as for the ecological restoration of the site, creating native meadows, new picnic lawns, and new ADA accessible pathways. These initiatives all align with HVSF's commitment to achieving carbon neutrality for the campus by 2040.


In her live announcement of the grant, New York Governor Kathy Hochul said, "We're going to continue bringing Shakespeare to the Hudson Valley, and I had a chance to visit and witness the incredible work that you're doing. I immediately recognized the need to continue supporting it. There are so many different ways that you can touch the soul — through your eyes, through your ears, listening to music. It's also about becoming engaged with a story that's over 500 years old, a story that continues to tell tales of incredible relevance to this day."


HVSF recently announced its upcoming 2024 Summer Season, which will include By The Queen, by Whitney White (Macbeth in Stride), adapted from William Shakespeare's Henry VI and Richard III, and directed by Shana Cooper (The Taming of the Shrew at HVSF); the World Premiere of The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, by Heidi Armbruster (Mrs. Christie), adapted from Agatha Christie, and directed by Ryan Quinn (The Tempest at HVSF); and the World Premiere of Medea: Re-Versed, by Luis Quintero (Love's Labor's Lost), adapted from Euripides, and co-conceived and directed by Nathan Winkelstein (Seascape), in a co-production with Red Bull Theater and Bedlam. All three productions will run in repertory throughout the summer under the company's current tent.


Founded in 1987, Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival (HVSF) is a critically acclaimed (The New York Times, The New Yorker, The Wall Street Journal), professional, non-profit theater company based in Garrison, NY, one hour north of Manhattan. The Festival has established a reputation for lucid, engaging, and highly inventive productions staged in rotating repertory under an iconic, open-air theater tent overlooking the Hudson River. In recent years, the Festival has also ventured beyond the tent, touring its work to other venues throughout the Hudson Valley as part of its HVSF On the Road series, transferring productions to other theaters, engaging its community through radically participatory art-making, and reaching over 30,000 students and educators annually through its year-round Education programs. HVSF began performances at its first permanent home in 2022.

Rooted in the landscape of the Hudson Valley, with the plays of William Shakespeare as their touchstone, HVSF engages the widest possible audience in a theatrical celebration of our shared humanity.


Founded and led by Jeanne Gang, Studio Gang is an architecture and urban design practice based in Chicago, San Francisco, New York, and Paris. Driven by an ethos of “actionable idealism,” the Studio uses a research-based design process to create places that build stronger relationships among people, communities, and the natural world. Studio Gang's diverse projects range from cultural centers to strategic framework plans and high-rise towers. Notable among them are the recently completed Richard Gilder Center for Science, Education, and Innovation at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, which the New York Times calls "a poetic, joyful, theatrical work of public architecture.” Other award-winning projects include the reimagined Arkansas Museum of Fine Arts in Little Rock, the Arcus Center for Social Justice Leadership in Kalamazoo, Michigan, and Writers Theatre in Glencoe, Illinois. In addition, Studio Gang is currently designing civic, cultural, and educational projects across Europe and the Americas, including the new United States Embassy in Brasília, the University of Chicago's European hub for study and research in Paris; a unified campus for the California College of the Arts in San Francisco; and the new O'Hare Global Terminal in Chicago. Regularly named one of Fast Company's Most Innovative Architecture Companies, Studio Gang has been internationally honored, published, and exhibited. The Studio's most recent monograph, Studio Gang: Architecture, was published by Phaidon in both French (2021) and English (2020) editions.