Studio Gang has revealed a new home for the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival (HVSF), the beloved New York theater company that got its start in 1987. HVSF is internationally recognized for its open-air productions of classics and new works that are set against the sweeping backdrop of the Hudson River.
To date, performances hosted by HVSF have taken place inside a collection of temporary tents at Boscobel House and Gardens. A new 13,850-square-foot venue designed by Studio Gang will provide HVSF with a new venue replete with the sweeping views of Hudson Valley the theater company is known for. The architects emphasize that the new performance area will be the centerpiece of HVSF’s 98-acre campus. It will also mark the first purpose-built LEED Platinum theater in the United States.
The design, sited in Garrison, New York, is in collaboration with HVSF’s artistic director Davis McCallum and artistic director Kendra Ekelund. Landscape architecture will be overseen by Nelson Byrd Woltz; the firm will retrofit a former golf course with native grasses and wetlands to support biodiversity and decrease resource use. The land was gifted to HVSF in 2020 by philanthropist Chris Davis with the dual-mission of preserving the 98-acre site for future generations while giving the theater troupe a new permanent venue.
Throughout the sprawling campus, the Studio Gang–designed open air theater takes center stage while program is spread across several other pavilions for a back-of-house facility, a concession stand, and standalone public restrooms. Each pavilion is clad in natural materials that evoke the region’s abundant minerals, Studio Gang said. The stage’s proscenium arch is strategically oriented to frame picturesque view of Wey-Gat (or “Wind Gate”) of Storm King Mountain, as well as the Hudson River and Breakneck Ridge. This makes for a compelling backdrop that allows the actors to utilize the existing topography to emerge from the landscape.
Nelson Byrd Woltz’s landscape design elicits an experiential sequence for visitors. Upon arrival, guests will encounter a mix of unpaved, accessible paths that deliver them to a hillside meadow. From there, they will access picnic lawns and the main theater plaza, which unifies the disparate pavilions. To meet sustainability targets, the design employs sophisticated environmental features like natural ventilation and Brise-soleil systems, low embodied carbon structure and cladding, rooftop solar panels, and an extensive green roof, among other design strategies.
“HVSF is such a beloved cultural institution, with a truly unique natural setting in the Hudson Valley,” said, Jeanne Gang, Studio Gang partner and founding principal. “Our design aims to help the company build on their strengths, with low-carbon architecture that improves daily functionality and amplifies the traditions that define their open-air performances—like the spectacular proscenium arch framing an iconic Hudson River view—as well as create new opportunities for audiences and actors to interact before and after the show. The ecology of the site also receives a new level of care, replacing a monocultural lawn with a biodiverse landscape that brings resiliency, wildlife, and seasonal beauty for all to enjoy,” Gang continued.
HVSF is hopeful that groundbreaking will begin in 2024.