Charlotte, North Carolina
Architecture As Performance
The design of the Charlotte Ballet was driven by the building's dual purpose: to provide a home for the dance company to train and prepare for performances, while also functioning as a venue for teaching and training dance students through the Charlotte Ballet Academy.
The organization of the building reflects the public v. private aspects of staging any performance. On the ground level, the dance company’s offices are located on the sidewalk and include a box office and public reception area, while wardrobe design and storage, the set construction shop, and rehearsal space are hidden from view. Likewise, the second floor is organized with the four dance studios exposed to the street through a glass curtain wall, while the locker rooms and break areas are “backstage.”
Placing the dance studios at the second level creates a sense of theatre and proclaims the building’s purpose to the community, while maintaining an appropriate psychological distance between the dancers and the public. The elevation of the studios above the street recreates the relationship which exists between stage and audience, allowing the dancers to be seen without the sense of vulnerability which would result from putting them at sidewalk level. This is especially important in maintaining a sense of security for the Academy students and their families.
The construction of the building reflects the duality between performance and preparation. The public facing spaces are clad in a dramatic, dynamic structure of folded metal planes and rhythmically stepped glass boxes which evokes the movement of dance. Behind this façade, the support functions are housed in an economical tilt-up concrete structure appropriate to their utilitarian nature. The result is a practical yet theatrical facility which perfectly reflects the discipline and beauty of dance.
"I continue to find moments of "awe" as I walk through this work of art. The team should be proud."