September 23, 2020

Backstage at the Egyptian: Lisa Sharp of Sharp Architects

Interview with Lisa Sharp of Sharp Architects conducted by Ashley Hines.

Ashley: What is your role in the renovation?

Lisa: Sharp Architects Inc. has been working with the Egyptian Theatre for several years to develop ideas and concepts for how the facility might best serve the community.  We were hired in 2019 to be the Architect for the current renovation project.  As the Architect we brought a team of talented firms together to provide design and engineering of the addition and renovation.  As a team, we provide the design of the addition and renovations of the theatre.  We are responsible for providing the Drawings which the Contractor will use to construct the renovations.

A: How does this project compare to other projects you have worked on?

L: This project is by far the most complicated project of my career. First, the documentation of the existing building was tremendously difficult.  The Egyptian Theatre is a unique and quirky building. Luckily we had been working with the theatre on other projects over the past few years so we had a head start on modeling the building. Second, the HVAC system had to meet both acoustical goals and considerable space constraints.  To meet the acoustical requirements we needed to make the ductwork as large as possible.  (The larger the duct for the required cfm air flow, the less noise is created.)  Balancing the size of the ductwork with the available ceiling space took serious effort. Third, we wanted the interior design of the building to feel like it may have been designed and built as part of the original 1929 building.  Nearly everything in the space is specifically designed for the Egyptian Theatre.  These features include custom carpeting, stained wood toilet partitions, unique tile walls and flooring, extensive concessions millwork at both levels, custom wood doors with art glass to match the original, and plaster finishes and patterned cove molding throughout the public spaces.  All of these issues had to be pulled together to serve the considerable needs of the patrons and staff and meet a myriad of building related code concerns.

A: What were some things you had to consider before starting renovations?

L: Eighty percent of the Architect’s work happens before we start construction.  We worked with Alex and theatre staff to define our goals at the beginning of the project, and then had to find ways to meet all of those space needs with the constraints of the available site.  With each revision of the design we further tested the concepts with the engineers and with the Owner.

A: What have been some of your favorite parts of renovating the Egyptian?

L: Seeing our ideas finally come together and come to life through the hard efforts of the team is thrilling.  There have been so many people who’s effort and careful consideration and hard work were needed to bring it together.  The restrooms are gorgeous.  I think local patrons will be most surprised by how different the First Floor Foyer feels as compared to what they have experienced over the past 40 years.  It was a rather sad, dark space before.  The renovated space is larger, much more elegant and lighter with a beautiful Concessions counter that will serve our community well for the next 40 years.

A: What have been some challenges?

L: Space constraints were considerable on this project.  We basically designed a three-story Swiss watch.  Fitting all of the mechanical and electrical systems for the building into the architectural spaces was a serious puzzle.

A: What do you think people will like most about the changes?

L: These changes will greatly improve the patron experience at the theatre.  The new restrooms are an obvious upgrade and with the increase in stalls will keep folks moving much more quickly during intermissions. I am also excited to see people’s reaction to the First Floor improvements.  It is going to be a lovely space. The new Concessions counters on both floors are also going to make quite an impression. Sharp Architects is hoping the community is really astounded by how fabulous the theatre looks when the renovations are complete.