Topping It Off
As the project neared completion and
the budget reached capacity, only essential items made the final cut. The
theater, designed to look like a giant red
box, wouldn’t look quite right without a
matching red top, but because of time
and money constraints, the fate of the
red roof deck hung in the balance.
“The red roof deck served no functional purpose but was important to the final
look of the building,” Mr. Dillon says.
He waited until the last possible
moment to make the call: Either leave
the actual roof exposed, or build the
roof deck and complete the look of the
lumber-clad red box. With only days left,
the team determined there was enough
time and budget to construct the deck.
“Theater companies don’t just cast a
show, practice it, then perform it. People
and elements are being changed until
the lights go on,” Mr. Dillon says. “This
ability to experiment and change as you
go is something project managers could
Originally, the team intended to
make the space an empty box—
adaptable to each show.
“But we quickly realized that,
while the building itself would be
cheaper that way, the individual
shows would be more expensive,
requiring more sets, more seating
configurations and longer breaks in
between shows,” Mr. Dillon says.
Instead, the team opted to have
the shows adapt to the space and
placed the seats and stage in a fixed
position. While the configuration
became less malleable, the National
“When we told the National
Theatre of the change in direction, they were more than okay
with it,” Mr. Dillon says. “Theater
projects are like building someone’s
private home: The spaces are highly
specialized and flexible, and the
process to build them needs to be
A Cut Above
When the project went over budget, the team members had to find savings of
about 15 percent. So they looked up.
“We all assumed we’d have a full technical level above the stage, complete
with lights and catwalks, but that was really expensive,” Mr. Dillon says.
The solution was to build a mother truss, which would carry the lights and
be hoisted down to stage level so they could be changed and then put back up
again for performances.
“It meant the ceiling would be lower but was far more affordable,” he says.
Because the lower ceiling called for fewer materials, it resulted in lower costs.
PHO TOS BY PHILIP VILE, COURTESY OF THE NATIONAL THEA TRE