Prior Performing Arts Center



The 84,000 sf Prior Performing Arts Center for the College of the Holy Cross has been designed to be an incubator for multidisciplinary learning that will support creative collaboration among students from all academic disciplines. Standing as the cultural center of the school—with venues for both fine arts and performing arts—the building houses a 400-seat proscenium theatre, a 200-seat flexible studio space, and the relocated Cantor Art Gallery.


Anchoring the Upper District of campus, the Center gathers together existing vectors of campus circulation at its heart: the Beehive. Around this central space, the programs are divided into four pavilions: the Multipurpose Theater; the Studio Theater; Art/Media; and Practice/Production. At the Center, the Beehive acts as a visible connective tissue between these pavilions, the public program, and student productions, allowing back-of-house functions to activate the building at all times. A flexible space with a café that supports creative collaboration, the Beehive includes a shared multimedia teaching space for electronic music and musical composition courses, sound recording, sound editing, and video and film editing as well as collaborative work spaces and multipurpose rehearsal spaces. The informal, hackable nature of the space turns it into a creative playground for both study and performance for all students irrespective of their majors. Like a stage, the interior materials of the pavilions combine both the raw and refined, matching flexible steel infrastructure and technical support zones with rich, warm collaboration zones.


The four pavilions are contained within two pairs of walls that intersect to form a nine square grid. In each corner of the grid lies a unique courtyard garden: a small amphitheater, an outdoor teaching area and workspace, a meditative garden, and a sculpture garden. The paired walls twist, rise, and interlock, with the wall of one pavilion becoming the roof of its neighbor, forming a chain around the center and creating arched entries directly into the heart of the building. The opposing precast concrete and weathering steel walls reinterpret the brick and limestone of the historic campus. Taking advantage of the site’s natural beauty, the Center’s design creates a meaningful counterpoint to the surrounding campus architecture, both fitting in and standing out on the highest point on campus.

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Project information
Size (GSF)84000LocationWorcester, United States
Commission2015Construction Begins2019Structure Tops Out2020
PartnersCharles Renfro,Elizabeth Diller,Benjamin Gilmartin,and Ricardo Scofidio
Project DirectorMiles Nelligan
TeamAnthony Saby,Jeremy Boon-Bordenave,Emily Vo Nguyen,Tyler Polich,Charles Curran,Deniz Haklar,Quy Le,Evan Farley,and Ayat Fadaifard
External credits
Perry Dean RogersExecutive Architect
Jaffe HoldenAcoustics & Audio / Visual
Nitsch EngineeringCivil Engineer
Code Red ConsultantsCode Consultant
Dharam ConsultingCost Estimator
Colburn & GuyetteFoodservice Consultant
Haley AldrichGeotechnical
Campbell-McCabe, Inc. Hardware Specifications
Shen Milson & WilkeIT / Security
OlinLandscape Architect
Tillotson Design AssociatesLighting
Altieri Sebor WieberMEP / FP Engineer
Construction Specifications, Inc. Specifications
Robert Silman AssociatesStructural Engineer
Fisher Dachs Associates, Inc. Theater Planning
    Photography by Iwan Baan and Brett Beyer