Theater Design and Production Schedule

The road to creating a great performance venue can be rocky unless you plan ahead. Like any creative endeavor, you may want to jump right in and get to the fun part of designing but it takes discipline to slow down, and plan the path that will result in the best possible venue.


The design and construction of a performance space is one of the more complicated processes of any building type.  The high number of specialists involved in creating a place for performing, requires a detailed and organized planning structure throughout the duration of design, fundraising, and construction. Careful consideration of the total length of time given to complete the project, as well as the duration of each phase within the process, will ensure a high level of design and construction quality.  Allotting ample time for each phase allows the design and construction team to study options and design solutions to best utilize given funds in the most efficient and strategic way possible.


Here are a few important tips and overview of the typical processes for a successful performance venue project:


Start early! If you have the need for a new facility, and would like to be open in less than 24 months, then you are likely already behind schedule.  Unlike other project types, theater design is a three-dimensional jigsaw puzzle, where so many systems come together in the same space.  The orchestration between functional building systems and design aesthetics requires more time to work out than most other project types.


Identify the construction type: When setting out to establish the timeline for building a performance venue, one must first identify if the project will be all new construction, a renovation of an existing structure, or a combination of both.  Each one of these considerations has its own challenges, each effecting the duration of the project.  New construction has the least amount of obstacles to work around and can be completed in the shortest time frame but may result in a higher construction cost.  Renovating an existing facility may save money in structure and building envelope costs but also may experience numerous change orders, extensions of time and cost related to unforeseen construction surprises typical with existing buildings.


Know the process and durations: The typical single venue performance facility can experience a total design and construction duration of thirty months.  This schedule begins once the site has been established and includes, Pre-design, Conceptual Design & Fundraising, Design & Construction Documents, and Bidding & Construction.  An increase in the schedule may be experienced for renovation projects, or projects in a jurisdiction with lengthy approval processes.


And now, for a crash course:


The period of Pre-design, usually 3-4 months, outlines the initial scope of the project.  Otherwise known as Programming, this phase identifies the site, and assembles the design team.  Once the team is defined, final Program verification gets underway and the total project goals are established.


Conceptual Design & Fundraising, a period of time that varies widely from project to project, depends on several key factors.  This is when the total project budget is established, initial design schemes are tested and priced, and funding is obtained.  Some projects enter Conceptual Design with funding in place.  Other projects may take several months to a year in order to acquire funds for completing the project.  A basic timeframe to plan for is 6-10 months for this phase.


Once funding is achieved and the total project budget verified, the design team begins Schematic Design & Construction DocumentsTaking anywhere from 8-12 months, this portion of planning the project is the most complex and involves the largest amount of simultaneous collaborators.  Architects and interior designers work closely with the building owner and their representatives, contractors, engineers, acousticians, theater consultants, landscape architects, product reps, and city officials in order to generate the documents necessary for the construction of the project.


The final piece of the project schedule consists of the construction of the facility.  Depending on the size and complexity, this phase can range anywhere from 12-24 months and even longer for larger multi-venue facilities.  Weather delays, numerous change orders, and complex site conditions may result in an extension to this schedule.  To ensure a smooth construction period with limited change orders, careful coordination between all team members during the Construction Documents phase is essential.


The design and construction of a performance theater can be a long and challenging process.  Attempting to compress the schedule for various reasons may get the facility opened faster, but may compromise the quality as well as adding to the final construction cost.  Understanding up front, the duration necessary to properly design and coordinate between all team members will allow a greater opportunity for a successful project.

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