Thalian Hall Master Plan & Design for Expansion and Renovations to Historic Theatre

Thalian Hall is Wilmington, N.C.’s premier performance venue. The c. 1858 Opera House had its last major renovation in 1975; in 1990 Hanbury designed a contemporary addition which added much needed lobby space and theater offices. In 2003, Hanbury was tasked with master planning an expansion of the Thalian Hall Center for the Performing Arts with a new multi-use play-house theater, a public park and renovations to the historic theatre. The first phase of implementation of the master plan, the renovation of the historic theatre, lobbies and offices, was completed in May 2010.

The goal of the renovation was to equip the historic hall for the 21st century. The challenge was to meet current accessibility requirements, update life-safety systems and improve performance lighting and sound without sacrificing the hall’s historic character. Designers paid great attention to material selections, finishes and color palettes of the new work so that it complemented the historic building fabric. The elaborate proscenium arch was meticulously restored, as was the decorative stenciling on the balcony front. The rebuilt wooden floor accomplishes better sightlines and accessibility, and new seating provides patrons with more leg-space. Technological improvements for sound, lighting and audio were integrated invisibly into the hall, as were improvements to the life safety systems. The star of the renovation is a new chandelier that was planned for, but omitted from, the 1975 work. Designed to emulate gas-electric chandeliers of the early 1900s, it adds the finishing touch to the ambience of this historic theater. Thalian Hall now looks forward to another 150 years of great performances.

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