The new structure will house space for a 400-seat theater in the round, as well as an education floor, a two-story atrium lobby, a wine bar and lounge, and a costume shop. The circular, close-knit layout of the theater will foster a sense of audience immersion, as no seat will be further than 20 feet from the stage.
The eclectic contemporary design is the work of Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture, who have enclosed the central theater in a fiber-reinforced concrete shell that rises from the center of the building. Surrounding the central shell is the remainder of the programming, which involves a glass and white panel exterior alongside various terraced setbacks. At the southeast corner is an additional metal-clad tower that further punctuates the design.
The expansion serves as the second and largest phase of a three-part $73 million revamp of the original Steppenwolf Theater campus. The first phase involved a renovation of the campus’s northernmost building, which integrated a new bar and cafe as well as a new theater known as the 1700 Theater. Meanwhile, once the current second phase is complete, work will begin on the third phase, which will involve accessibility upgrades throughout the original main theater building as well as a conversion of its current Upstairs Theater back to rehearsal halls.
Residing just north of the Clybourn Corridor area, various transit options are in close proximity. Bus access for Route 8 is located at the adjacent stops for 1700 N Halsted, while Routes 9 and 72 are a two-minute walk south to North Ave & Clybourn/Halsted. CTA L Red Line service can be found via the North/Clybourn station, also a two-minute walk south. Those looking to board the Brown and Purple Lines will find Armitage station via a 13-minute walk to the northwest.
Chicago-based Norcon Inc. has served as the general contractor for the current $54 million phase. With final exterior and interior work now wrapping up, the next chapter in the Steppenwolf Theater redevelopment is expected to open this coming summer.