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Project Archive

Howard Theatre Redevelopment
June 02, 2012

Location: Shaw Neighborhood, Northwest Washington, DC
Lead Architect: Marshall Moya Design
Information: www.marshallmoya.com
Square Footage: 30,390

The Howard Theatre, founded in 1910, was one of the first theatres for African American performing arts; a true cultural gem of Washington DC and for US history. Its 30 years of abandonment left extreme deterioration to both its interior and exterior. In 2009, the DC Government charged Marshall Moya Design (MMD), in collaboration with Martinez + Johnson Architecture, with reviving the theatre with a 21st century approach while preserving its history and elegance. MMD restored the five original columns, the dome, the schematic layout, and the balconies. The firm’s design of the theatre garnered national and international attention for the tasteful renovation and restoration that honors the past, while incorporating elements of a modern performance venue.

Traditionally, a wall of signatures marked the legacy of past performers. This concept has been resurrected in a modern format to preserve the legendary icons of the past, present, and the future. Throughout the theatre, light boxes also display important artists who performed at Howard Theatre such as Ella Fitzgerald, Diana Ross, and Ray Charles. The light boxes not only celebrate the history of the performers, but also allow patrons to interface with the images in a visually stunning medium, ranging in size up to 15 feet tall by 4 feet wide.

The technical requirements bring the theatre up-to-date, including state-of-the-art systems to enhance the venue for the contemporary enjoyment of patrons. The flexible seating arrangement accommodates all types of performances, with a hydraulic lift that can transform the theater from a supper-style seating for 650 patrons, into a ballroom space for 1,100 in 40 minutes. A full-service restaurant and kitchen, two Brazilian granite bars, custom signage, leather seating, two DJ booths, and warm walnut paneled walls with dark oak floors all contribute to an elegant experience and atmosphere for patrons.

The venue hosts a variety of events such as live performances, platforms for political gatherings, corporate events and “Sunday Gospel” brunches, hence allowing the building to be a multi-functional cultural amenity. The public/private partnership of this project has facilitated economic development and urban renewal in the Shaw neighborhood of Washington, DC. 

In collaboration with the architects of record Martinez + Johnson Architecture (responsible for the exterior and back of house space).