By Roxanne Squires
LOWELL, Mass. — Middlesex Community College (MCC) recently celebrated the opening of its new performing arts center, named The Richard and Nancy Donahue Family Academic Arts Center.
Leers Weinzapfel and Consigli Construction were selected to renovate and transform MCC Lowell’s historic Victorian Gothic brick building, which previously served as the B&M Railroad Department, into a new Academic Arts Center.
The new center now houses the college’s performing-arts programs, theater, music and dance — featuring a 187-seat proscenium theatre, a 103-seat recital hall, a 900-square-foot dance studio, a music practice room and classrooms.
To accommodate a proscenium theater, music recital hall, and a dance studio, the team designed a simple egg-shaped volume, inserted within the 1876 brick shell, as the backdrop reimagines the local train depot heritage.
The core of the center in the “egg” is a 177-seat theater, that descends from the first-floor lobby into the basement, creating a tall compact audience space with excellent sight lines. The efficient curved shape of the new insertion serves as the structural core of the building, supporting both new spaces as well as bringing the deteriorating historic structure into compliance with modern codes.
To create a fully functioning theater and other performing spaces, the design called for the excavation and construction of a new basement built on the bedrock and a new wing in the back, housing the mechanical and support spaces. These additions nearly double the area available within the building for the College’s vibrant and growing music, theater and dance departments. The departments are dedicated to teaching the art and craft of the performing arts.
Each major teaching space combines a professional level technological environment with the intimate scale appropriate for student performance.
The site of the new performing arts center, within the Lowell National Historic Park, is part of the renewed urban core. The new Richard and Nancy Donahue Family Academic Arts Center will serve as a catalyst for future urban development and will help cement the College’s commitment to an urban campus.
Work on the performing arts center began in 2015 and was completed in Fall 2018. Reports from Leers Weinzapfel and Consigli Construction contributed to this story.