Mecanoo and Marvel reveals designs for a rebuilt Doris Duke Theater at Jacob’s Pillow

Sounds of the Berkshires

Mecanoo and Marvel reveals designs for a rebuilt Doris Duke Theater at Jacob’s Pillow

A ground-level view of the planned new Doris Duke Theatre. The lobby on the west side of the new Duke is visible in this image. (Mecanoo Architects and Marvel)

Jacob’s Pillow, the Berkshires’ renowned dance center, has announced plans for a new, Mecanoo Architects–designed theater. The Doris Duke Theater, which burned down in 2020 will be rebuilt on a larger scale.

The original 8,500-square-foot theater will be rebuilt as a 20,000-square-foot facility that can seat up to 230 people. While the performance venue’s focus is dance, the building will be able to support additional events and residences with a range of stage configurations. Rounding out the design team are Marvel as the architect of record and landscape architect; Charcoalblue as theater and acoustic consultants; and Jeffrey Gibson, a member of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians and of Cherokee descent; will consult on indigenous design values and the project’s relationship to the homeland of the Mohican people which it will be built on. 

rendering of a cultural campus
Aerial view of the Jacob’s Pillow campus, with the planned new Doris Doris Theatre on the site of the original Duke studio theater. (Mecanoo Architects and Marvel)

The building’s circulation will be positioned around multiple entrances and exits, enabled by two lobbies with sliding doors. The lobby on the western side of the building will welcome entrants to an “artist quadrangle,” which will provide space for talks and exhibitions. The second lobby, on the building’s eastern side, will serve as a rehearsal space for artists which can double as a secondary reception space. 

It will also house “flexible locations for stage management and sound” and improved audio and lighting capacities. Windows and skylights will bring natural light in, and can be darkened with curtains when necessary. A digital spatial audio system will installed to track dancers alongside moving sound images, enabling interactive video content and the integration of live and recorded performances. The theater will be hardwired to other buildings at Jacob’s Pillow. Technology will allow more than one event or performances to take place at once.

rending of an interior gathering space
A portion of the west lobby of the planned new Doris Duke Theatre. (Mecanoo Architects and Marvel)

Sam Gill, president and CEO of the Doris Duke Foundation, said that “The new Duke Theatre will enable Jacob’s Pillow to harness the digital revolution to serve a more inclusive, innovative, and engaging vision for dance.” Jacob’s Pillow sees the theater as ushering in the future of its programming as a “future-forward dance theater.” 

The $30 million project is being funded by donors and foundations, including $10 million from the Doris Duke Foundation. The Massachusetts Cultural Facilities Fund supported the project’s pre-schematic design. Indigenous artists will contribute visual arts projects, a medicinal garden near the building’s entrance, and a firepit for gatherings. 

Jacob’s Pillow executive and artistic director Pamela Tatge said: “The design creates a year-round space that will serve as an incubator for a new generation of artists seeking to integrate technology into live performance and create art native to the digital realm. It will be a porous, indoor/outdoor space for creation, performance, and community engagement that speaks to the lessons we’ve learned during the pandemic about the need for community-building, and our innate connection with nature, which we at the Pillow treasure greatly.”