Tennessee Theatre

  • Client

  • Project Type

Design Achievement - The landmark Tennessee Theatre in downtown Knoxville is restored to its full Spanish-Moorish splendor following an extensive rehabilitation, expansion, and modernization program. Originally designed as a movie palace, the 66,475 SF Tennessee Theatre opened in 1928 as one of the grandest theaters in the South. By the late 1990’s, the sumptuous Tennessee was dated and tired, and its entire stage and support were inadequate for modern performances and touring productions. The restoration of this historic theater features a new, expanded stage house for symphony, opera, and a variety of performing arts groups. The design enables the theater to meet today’s demanding performance expectations while honoring its historic design features. Situated on an urban block, the upstage wall extended to the property line on a major thoroughfare, which adjoins a neighboring cemetery. The challenge of the stage house expansion was the incorporation of proper "load-in" and staging areas, while considering traffic flow, proximity to the cemetery, and compatibility with adjacent historic architecture. The design solution cantilevers the stage over the street, overcoming the construction challenges of casting caissons and working in an area known for poor soils, caves, and the relics of older subterranean buildings. The project was funded through public and private support including a windfall of $6 million in Historic and New Market tax credits, secured with the assistance of our firm. Within three months of re-opening, the 1,600 seat theater was ranked 47th on Pollstar's List of Top 50 Theaters. This project has been widely published and has received numerous honors, including an award from the National Trust for Historic Preservation. 

Scope Summary - In addition to the stage house expansion, the project also included an enlarged orchestra pit, new service and passenger elevators, adequate theater support spaces such as dressing rooms, wardrobe, crew and storage, acoustic and audio improvements, and the correction of deficiencies in the re- shaping of the original audience chamber while preserving essential historic features. Upgrades encompassed theatrical systems required for contemporary productions, including new rigging, theatrical lighting and control and soft goods; modifications for accessibility within the audience chamber and support areas; and mechanical, electrical, plumbing and fire protection systems. Patron amenities were improved and expanded, such as a new box office, modernized restroom facilities, new seats and improved sightlines, concessions, and lounges. Interior work involved new carpeting, draperies, and lighting fixtures replicating the original design, as well as the historic restoration of plaster and paint surfaces throughout the lobby, lounge, foyers, and auditorium. DLR Group|Westlake Reed Leskosky provided historic architectural consultation for the restoration of all historic public spaces, as well as the construction of a new stage house, with related performance support facilities. The firm consulted on interior design, including soft goods of grand drape and decorative draperies throughout the audience chamber and lobby areas, and served as theatrical, mechanical/electrical/plumbing, and tax credit consultant. 

DLR Group acquired Westlake Reed Leskosky in September 2016. Today, the combined Healthcare expertise and design resources of Westlake Reed Leskosky and DLR Group serve clients as a collaborative Healthcare Studio committed to elevating the human experience through design.

Awards & Recognition

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  • Special Commendation Award

    American Institute of Architects (AIA) South Atlantic Region
  • Design of Excellence Award

    American Institute of Architects (AIA) Tennessee
  • Award of Honor

    American Institute of Architects (AIA) East Tennessee
  • Reconstruction Awards - Grand Award

    Building Design & Construction
  • Award, Restoration Category

  • National Preservation Award

    National Trust for Historic Preservation

Tennessee Theatre