National Theatre of Bahrain Tops USITT 2015 Theatre Architecture Awards

The stunning National Theatre of Bahrain is the top winner of USITT's 2015 Architecture Awards for exceptional performance spaces. USITT also chose new performing arts buildings at theatre schools in London and Portland, Oregon, for recognition in 2015.

Bahrain National Theatre designed by AS.Architecture-Studio in Paris, France, with Theatre Projects Consultants of London, will receive USITT's 2015 Honor Award in Architecture. The 1,001 seat theatre became one of the largest theatres in the Middle East when it opened in 2012 on the island of Bahrain, off the coast of Saudi Arabia.

Milton Court, the new performing arts building at the Guildhall School of Music in London, UK, and the Performing Arts Building at Reed College in Portland, OR, will each receive Merit Awards for excellence in theatre architecture.

USITT's Architecture Commission will present the awards at its 2015 National Conference & Stage Expo March 18-21 in Cincinnati, Ohio, which draws some 5,000 people from the world of theatrical design and technology.

USITT, the United States Institute for Theatre Technology, annually recognizes the best contemporary theatres built or renovated in recent years with Honor or Merit awards.

The Bahrain National Theatre is a $50 million work of art occupying 12,000 square meters on the Lagoon in capital city Manama's commercial district. Its "extreme horizontality" in shimmering glass and aluminum reflect the Persian Gulf archipelago, while its canopy of open-weave aluminum evokes the country's traditional wicker roofs, the architects wrote.

Inside, the curving, elm-paneled walls of the performance hall resemble the inverted hull of a ship, a tribute to the region's ancestral pearl-fishing boats. The main hall has an Italian theatre layout, with long side balconies and two tiers of rear balconies.

Theatre Projects Consultants also worked on Merit winner Milton Court, a $142 million project designed by RHWL Architects of London. The building, which opened in September 2013, provided new performance and teaching spaces for the acclaimed Guildhall School of Music and Drama. It includes a concert hall of up to 608 seats, a theatre of up to 227 seats, and a 128-seat studio theatre.

Merit award winner Reed College's new $28 million Performing Arts Building consolidated theatre, dance, and music programs formerly scattered across the college's 128-acre campus into one 80,000-square-foot building. It was designed by Opsis Architecture of Portland with consulting by Fisher Dachs Associates of New York City.

Main access to the building is through glass doors into the Atrium, a large open space filled with natural light that invites gatherings both impromptu and planned. Performances are staged in either the 99-seat black box theatre or the 180-seat studio theatre. The plans provide for the eventual addition of a 450-seat proscenium theatre, according to the college.

USITT's Architecture Awards are chosen based on creativity, contextual resonance, functional operation, use of new technology, and community contribution. Each project will be represented in a special exhibit at USITT 2015 in Cincinnati, with an awards reception in their honor.

USITT is the non-profit association serving the performing arts design and technology industry. For more information, visit

Pictured: Top winner, the Bahrain National Theatre (top); Merit winner Milton Court in London (right); and Merit winner Reed College Performing Arts Building in Portland, Oregon (bottom).

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