Owner: Ballet Memphis
Location: Memphis, Tenn.
Award of Merit
A nationally acclaimed professional ballet company dreamed for 15 years of relocating their enterprise to a more prominent location in Memphis, Tennessee. The Company decided on a new site within a centrally located, growing performance arts district. The Company sought to uplift the community beyond dance and exercise with an inspiring community space filled with creativity and vibrancy—for Memphians to find new ways to share in each other’s accomplishments.
Ballet Memphis believes their art form is all about soaring—learning to fly and getting up off the ground. Their new, civic-oriented facility extends their mission, physically performing an energetic message about culture and arts from within the heart of Memphis. With large windows and public courtyards, the building contributes symbiotically within the thriving district.
"This is a wonderful, contemporary interpretation of the role arts can play in our communities. A simple gem of a civic-oriented facility that engages the public and invites them to dance." ~ Jury Statement
The building is designed to engage the public in movement, wellness, culture, and community connection. The two-story building houses rehearsal space for the professional company, dance classrooms for youth, and community dance and pilates classes. The rehearsal studios double as a performance space.
The exterior form, composed of layers of glass, perforated copper, and volumes of contrasting metal, emulates a music box. Transparency and opening up to the community are at the core of the design. Gauzy screens and deep insets of the building mask and reveal the activity of dancers within. Warm, neutral materials and cool colors are also used to frame and display the actions of the dancer’s specialized movements. The copper screen mimics the existing historic street edge – enhancing the urban experience within an entertainment district undergoing a renaissance – while complying with current city codes and setbacks.
The building’s façade offers opportunities for the community to participate in the organization, via exterior courtyards, retail experiences, and a café. A costume shop exists at the easternmost end of the project, featuring a display window that doubles as a mini-performance venue. Dance and architecture share a focus on movement, space, and time. Celebrating these disciplines through this civic project enhances its growing entertainment district and the residential neighborhoods in the area.