Cambridge, Massachusetts


Harvard University recently acquired the 1887 Hasty Pudding Club building, formerly owned by the oldest society at Harvard, a secret society that transitioned into a theatrical group by the 1840s. One of the many design challenges was to honor the historical importance of the former Hasty Pudding Theatre, which features student-written works, while creating a performance space to meet the current standards of theater technology and audience comfort.

The original front third of the 1887 brick structure, together with entry porches, was retained and restored for multi-purpose use. The rear two-thirds of the building was rebuilt to create the new theater, a 6-story volume embedded beyond the building’s historic facade. The new building houses a full theater complex with rehearsal spaces, dressing rooms, offices, a control booth, and prop and scene shops.

In the 272-seat auditorium, deep crimson aniline-dyed plywood paneling and air diffusers lined with blue LED tubes create a bold, imaginative environment. Equipped with a moveable thrust stage, orchestra and stage lifts, and a comprehensive house and stage lighting system, the flexibility of the performance space is educationally useful.

Unique to the main stage are the windows along the side balcony that allow natural daylight in during rehearsal and group meetings. By night, the windows can be covered by operable shades for performances.

Along the south-facing wood-paneled wall, three panels open, permitting light from the main stairwell into the theater. The panel opening also provides access to light fixtures, and a rare position for performance above the stage.

An acoustically isolated multifunction room is located above the main auditorium and serves as a black-box theater, a main rehearsal room, a recital hall, a classroom, and a place for formal receptions.

The south porch of the original building, together with the adjacent alley, has become the new public theater entry. From the street, the transparent lobby of the new building allows passersby a glimpse to the interior of the new theater.