Harman Center for the Arts

Building the Theater Experience
Having lived through the project on a daily basis, I came to appreciate Clark's collaborative nature and sincere desire to become true partners with all project team members and stakeholders.
Chris Jennings, Managing Director, Shakespeare Theatre Company
Washington, D.C.
Shakespeare Theatre Company
102,000 Square Feet
Year Completed: 

Sidney Harman Hall is a 775-seat performance space that, when combined with the nearby Lansburgh Theatre, constitutes the Shakespeare Theatre Company’s Harman Center for the Arts. The hall occupies five and one-half floors within the 11-story headquarters of the International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers (IUABC), also constructed by Clark, and is acoustically isolated from its busy urban surroundings.

Sidney Harman Hall, designed to address the Shakespeare Theatre Company’s expanded programming mission, allows for a wide variety of staging configurations and for the presentation of dance and music events. Acoustically, the space has been rendered for the spoken word and also can be easily adapted for chamber music as well as live, amplified, or recorded music. In addition to the performance space, the facility includes administrative offices, ample-sized dressing rooms and a green room, a below-grade multi-purpose rehearsal space, audio/visual facilities, and a warming kitchen.

The building’s five-story glass facade features an eight-foot projected bay window extending outward, mimicking a screen or theatrical scrim, hanging over the F Street sidewalk below. The facade and window establish Harman Hall’s identity and provide a direct link to the vibrant surrounding neighborhood. The street-level entrance lobby area includes Sidney Harman Hall’s box office and gift shop. The orchestra lobby level is extended out over the sidewalk within the glass bay window. The balcony lobby level overlooks the orchestra lobby below, visually connecting the audiences on both levels.

From the beginning, the project was based on an abstract and innovative design proposal, one that called for intuition, versatility, tactfulness, and diligence. Many items used during construction, such as the gantry truss, a moveable and de-mountable facade for certain performances, were either the archetype of their kind or applications new to the veteran Clark team. Dutch doors and moveable partitions are unique to Sidney Harman Hall, and the chair lift and wagon required considerable amounts of coordination and adjustment with the pre-existing concrete opening.


Clark Concrete performed all concrete work in the construction of the cast-in-place frame of the base building, three levels of below-grade parking, and, most notably, the Sidney Harman Hall. Sidney Harman Hall incorporates a number of unique and challenging elements, including bonded and unbonded post tensioning systems, acoustical architectural concrete finishes, high-lift walls, massive staged stressed concrete transfer girders spanning the entire theater, suspended slabs hanging from structural rods, more than 2,000 embedded items, acoustical isolation joints, cast-in-place exposed theater seating, and both vertical and lateral isolation pads. 

Sidney Harman Hall's theater component is fully enclosed and acoustically isolated from the surrounding office building, busy streets nearby, and adjacent Metro tunnel. The sound-proof cast-in-place Theater Box “floats” inside what appears to be a typical D.C. office building. To achieve this floating condition, the structure was designed with no rigid connections between the theater and office building. The concrete Theater Box is completely enveloped by a three-inch airspace. Rubber pads were also used to achieve full acoustic isolation of the theater structure. Textured concrete walls are incorporated throughout the theater for acoustical considerations. Clark Concrete assisted the design team in selecting the form liner texture. Each form liner strip was individually nailed to the wall panels. The formwork design and concrete placement of these walls was carefully planned to make sure the liners did not deform or deflect during concrete placement.

ABC of Metro Washington - Excellence in Construction Award, Specialty/Concrete Category
Mid-Atlantic Construction Magazine - Best Cultural Project, Award of Merit
WBC Craftsmanship Award - Finishes/Plaster
WBC Craftsmanship Award - Woods & Plastics/Architectural Millwork