In Bainbridge Island, Washington, The Buxton Center reopens its doors following renovations by LMN Architects

Into the Woods

In Bainbridge Island, Washington, The Buxton Center reopens its doors following renovations by LMN Architects

The Buxton Center for Bainbridge Performing Arts in Bainbridge Island, Washington. (Lara Swimmer)

A short ferry ride from downtown Seattle, a new hub for visual and performing arts is now open on Bainbridge Island, Washington. Seattle-based firm LMN Architects completed the renovation and expansion of The Buxton Center for Bainbridge Performing Arts, welcoming artists, patrons, and visitors to the new state-of-the-art cultural space that began as a humble community theater in 1956.

Named after American actor, writer, director, and late benefactor Frank Buxton, the renewed arts venue puts the history and ecology of Bainbridge on center stage. Natural tones and local materials celebrate the island’s landscape and architecture. “The Buxton Center is a vital constituent of the Bainbridge Island cultural community, and this renovation renews a treasured island institution that will continue to support local arts organizations and their patrons for years to come,” Julie Adams, partner at LMN Architects said in a statement.

A lobby with wood and blackened steel fixtures, with a background of woodland landscape peeking from the glass curtain wall.
Wood hues, glass, and blackened steel are juxtaposed with the surrounding natural elements at The Buxton Center lobby. (Lara Swimmer)

The 16,700-square-foot renovation project broke ground in the fall of 2021 and was completed last fall.

Upon entering, a two-story lobby is enclosed by a wood and glass curtain wall. The lobby’s transparency allows patrons to indulge in the natural landscape surrounding the venue, and adorns the inside with the changing seasons and abundance of natural light. For passersby, the curtain wall allows them to peek into the building’s activities. The undulating wood roof ties in with the region’s natural elements and architectural vernacular. Wood hues, glass, and blackened steel fixtures are on view throughout the lobby, creating dynamic spaces that establish a clear identity for The Buxton Center.

Adjacent to the lobby, a flexible studio serves as a performance venue and The Bainbridge Performing Arts Theatre School program’s primary home. The center’s renovated auditorium is marked by red highlights. Inside, it features a reconfigured seating bowl alongside new sound and light locks, improving accessibility and sightliness for patrons. Backstage, the auditorium features new energy-efficient lighting, support spaces, and building systems. The renovations also focused on improving the Center’s sustainability, expanding the existing rain garden, including more efficient HVAC systems, and topping it with a rooftop solar array.  

A view from the outside into a performing venue through a window.
The large windows allows passersby to peek into The Buxton Center. (Lara Swimmer)

The preservation of existing tree covers and deep roof overhangs were used to reduce the building’s cooling needs. The design team’s sustainability efforts target LEED Gold certifications for the building.

An auditorium with red seats and a piano onstage.
The renewed auditorium features new lighting and a reconfigured seating bowl. (Lara Swimmer)

Highlighting the project’s emphasis on community building, The Buxton Center offers a communal area on the second level, and a community gathering space furnished with a custom-built bar made of timber from the nearby Bloedel Reserve. The new art space aims to create a cultural and civic campus on the Island’s downtown, standing alongside the weekly farmer’s market, City Hall, Town Square, and the Bainbridge Island Historical Museum.

Lobby with a wooden roof and a black wall. A steel balcony and a bar area.
Communal gathering spaces are present around the Buxton Center, including a bar area crafted by a local woodworker. (Lara Swimmer)

“This incredible renovation and expansion signifies not only a physical transformation but also a renewed commitment to our mission of fostering creativity and building community,” executive director at The Buxton Center Elizabeth Allum said.