The project is a 10,500-sf theatre and dance facility for a college preparatory school located 2,500 feet above sea level in Makawao, an upcountry town on the island of Maui. The challenge of the project was to create an inexpensive building in keeping with the rural character of its setting, and to support a robust theatre arts educational program.

Seabury Hall Creative Arts Center / Flansburgh Architects
© Matthew Millman

Key of the project include:

  • Constructing a new 500-seat theatre with stage, lobby, scenery shop, dance studio, and dressing room for under $5,000,000.
  • Providing maximum theatre flexibility and capability while providing a safe, engaging environment for students.
  • Taking advantage of the site: a narrow promontory on the edge of campus with views of Haleakala (Maui’s dormant volcano) to the east and the ocean to the west.
  • Being sensitive to the school’s neighbors: a rural community of Hawaiian cowboys that distinguish upcountry Maui from the better-known resort areas along the coast.
  • Embracing Hawaii’s favorable climate by extending educational areas outdoors.
Seabury Hall Creative Arts Center / Flansburgh Architects
© Matthew Millman

Design Concepts

  • The barn aesthetic is sensitive to the neighboring upcountry architecture. Its industrial materiality is not precious; it gives students license to explore new ways to engage the audience.
  • The building is naturally ventilated and enclosed by a pre-engineered steel frame and envelope, saving on building and operational costs.
  • The exterior glass walls are covered by lightweight fiberglass grating that controls daylight during the day and creates the look of candle light peeking through the open boards of a barn at night.
  • The red seats, red walls, and red stair combined with the charcoal color of the steel structure and fiberglass grating hint at Haleakala’s extinct volcanic activity.
  • The openness of the floor plan, large barn doors, and sensitive siting create a strong connection between the interior spaces and the beautiful outdoors.
Seabury Hall Creative Arts Center / Flansburgh Architects
© Matthew Millman

The curriculum for the center revolves around creativity and unpretentious informality. The theatre has all the capabilities of a high-end performing arts center, but it’s more of a low-key, get-your-hands-dirty, rough-and-tumble environment. The idea of having a barn made sense for both the context and curriculum. The project relies upon the importance of nature and the cultural imperatives of the context to shape its design. The barn-like structure echoes architectural elements seen through neighboring upcountry Maui. Outfitted with retractable, removable, loose seating and platforms, the theatre can be arranged in multiple configurations including a large, flat-floor venue.

Seabury Hall Creative Arts Center / Flansburgh Architects
© Matthew Millman

As they approach the theatre, audience members pass through the courtyard, which students use as a back-of-house area. In a typical theatre, the magic of the performance is hidden from the audience until the show starts. Here, they get to see the inner workings and get excited before it begins. The back of the theatre opens up to the courtyard and dance studio beyond, giving the space a cohesive feel and allowing those in the theatre to remain connected to the outdoors.

Project Details:

Location: Makawao, Hawaii, USA
Type: Cultural
Area: 10,500sqf
Architects: Flansburgh Architects
Photographs: Matthew Millman

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