Now occupied by the Portland Center Stage theater company, the Gerding Theater is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Romanesque Revival building-which features narrow gun-sight windows and a 100' x 200' clear space spanned by arching Douglas fir trusses-was originally constructed in 1891 to house local units of the Oregon National Guard.
To fit 55,000 ft2 of program space in a 20,000 ft2 footprint while preserving the existing roof, the project team excavated 30 feet into the ground. To seismically brace the structure and acoustically isolate two performance spaces, the team built a concrete box inside the existing shell via two 14-foot-wide doors. The immensely challenging process was likened to building a ship inside a bottle.
Reusing an existing building conserved not only the embodied energy of the existing brick, stone, and wood trusses but also the craftsmanship of the unique façade. The team minimized the use of finish materials to conserve resources and reinforce the character of the original building. New materials were selected for their regional availability, recycled content, and low chemical emissions.
Accessible by public transportation, the theater also features showers and changing areas for employees who commute by bicycle or foot. A park alongside the building offers outdoor seating and native vegetation. The site also features pervious pavers, increasing stormwater infiltration.
Rainwater captured from the roof is used to flush toilets and urinals. The rainwater harvesting system, lack of a permanent irrigation system, dual-flush toilets, and low-flow showerheads and faucets combine to reduce the project's demand for potable water by 88%.
The building is connected to an efficient district-chilled-water plant, and chilled beams are used to cool the building. Hot water can also be circulated. Displacement and underfloor ventilation were installed in the lobby and main theater. Advanced glazing maximizes daylighting while minimizing winter heat loss and summer heat gain. In different parts of the building, lighting is controlled by photosensors, occupancy sensors, and dimming switches.