February 28, 2019

Design Concepts Revealed for a New Norfolk Performing Arts Facility & Renovated Chrysler Hall

by Alan Reed

Design Concepts Revealed for a New Norfolk Performing Arts Facility & Renovated Chrysler Hall
Alan Reed

Alan Reed

FAIA, LEED AP

President See Profile

Originally designed by Pier Luigi Nervi and local architects Williams and Tazewell & Associates, the Norfolk Scope complex—comprised of the Scope Arena, Chrysler Hall, and the surrounding plaza—was representative of cutting-edge urban design upon completion in the early 1970s. 

Meant to be the cultural heart of the city and the region, the aging hall and plaza is ready for a rejuvenation that reimagines the patron experience and reinvigorates this cultural cornerstone.

GWWO, design architect, has teamed with Norfolk-based VIA design architects, the architect-of-record, to design the renovations to the historic Chrysler Hall, a new rehearsal facility, and upgrades to the plaza. The goal for the project is to revitalize the user experience from the plaza to Chrysler itself while remaining sensitive to Norfolk’s past, present, and future and acknowledging the whole as greater than the sum of its parts.

Chrysler Hall, one of the city’s busiest venues, will receive an upgrade that elevates the patron experience, respects its historical significance, and modernizes back of house spaces. For patrons, this will mean a new lobby, center-bank seating with cross aisles, extended dress circle and balcony, and new restrooms. 

When tasked with visioning a new rehearsal facility on the plaza, the design team was inspired by the strong architecture provided by Nervi, an early pioneer in thin shell concrete and distinctive concrete structural systems. Designing in the spirit of Nervi, the team sought to create a solid, singular, and captivating form that could stand with Scope Arena and Chrysler Hall. Through the use of modern cutting-edge cladding materials, the designs celebrate Nervi’s innovative use of reinforced concrete. Choosing skins that change in the sun and appear in constant motion, each design serves as a billboard for the arts and creates the plaza’s crown jewel.

Option 1—Rhythm

Located on the south side of the plaza and facing St. Pauls Boulevard, this addition to Chrysler Hall mimics the rectangular form and materiality of the current facility. The strong belt course, or horizontal band, that loops around Chrysler continues around the new structure.

View from St. Pauls Boulevard towards E. Charlotte Street
View from St. Pauls Boulevard towards E. Charlotte Street
View from corner of E. Charlotte Street & St. Pauls Boulevard
View from corner of E. Charlotte Street & St. Pauls Boulevard

Option 2—Beat

Sited between Chrysler Hall and Scope Arena, Beat is clad in a complementary stone and glass. Metal curtains drape the second level providing a sense of movement as they drift with the wind, shimmer in the sun, and create their own song.

View from Plaza towards St. Pauls Boulevard
Above & Left: View from Plaza towards St. Pauls Boulevard
View from plaza towards St. Pauls Boulevard

Option 3—Melody

Positioned at the corner of Monticello Avenue and E. Charlotte Street, Melody stands in conversation with Chrysler Hall. A two-story glass form emerges from the stone façade and puts the arts on stage. Utilizing parametric design tools, the design team reinterpreted symphonic music to generate the dynamic façade treatment. Raiseable doors allow performances to spill onto the newly lush plaza and engage passersby.  Respectful of its close relationship to Chrysler, a band of light around the exterior represents a modern interpretation of Chrysler’s belt course.

View from corner of E. Charlotte Street & Monticello Avenue
View from corner of E. Charlotte Street & Monticello Avenue
View from plaza toward Monticello Avenue
View from plaza toward Monticello Avenue

Option 4—Harmony

On the same site as Melody, Harmony raises the facility’s prominence by adding a public gathering space within the first level. Like Melody, parametric design was used to create the engaging faceted glass exterior that appears to dance with shifting viewpoints. A glowing beacon from all sides, Harmony enthusiastically embraces its role as the crown jewel.

View from corner of E. Charlotte Street & Monticello Avenue
View from corner of E. Charlotte Street & Monticello Avenue
View from plaza toward Monticello Avenue
View from plaza toward Monticello Avenue

The program for each design includes a new 400-seat recital and practice hall, practice rooms, dressing rooms, music library, offices, and storage. To learn more about Chrysler Hall and Scope Arena visit www.sevenvenues.com.

Alan Reed

Alan Reed

FAIA, LEED AP

President See Profile

Alan Reed is GWWO’s President and Design Principal. His career has focused on the design of progressive architecture that achieves striking presence while remaining responsive to its site and surroundings. In 2011, he was elevated to the AIA College of Fellows specifically in recognition of his work that has transformed visitor experiences nationwide.

See all posts by Alan