James Simpson Theatre

Renovations

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James Simpson Theatre

Location Client Size Duration
1400 S. Lake Shore Drive, Chicago, IL 60605 The Field Museum of Chicago 30,000 sq/ft. September 2001 – December 2003

Originally constructed in 1921, this historic Greek revival Theater was used heavily by museum functions and outside groups. Gradually, patchwork repairs began to fall short and a complete renovation was needed. Furthermore, the theater no longer met the demands of a 21st century presentation facility, either in comfort or in technical capabilities.

The two guiding mandates for the work were (1) to bring the theater up to city and national code in order to comply with life safety issues, and (2) to provide an ADA compliant theater. This involved the replacement not only of the seats but also of the auditorium floor. The aisles needed adjustment not only in the severity of the slope but in width. This new configuration of the floor had to accommodate a new seating layout for wider chairs and expanded aisle spacing for added comfort. Easily removable ADA seating positions needed to be added throughout the auditorium area.

Life safety required that the theater be sprinkled throughout, on stage and in the house. This was a major challenge inasmuch as access to above ceiling was non-existing. To solve this dilemma, the decorative plaster ceiling was cut with tracks extending the full length of the house to hold the sprinkler piping. The ceiling was then restored.