In launching our inaugural Existing Conditions Innovation Challenge in February 2023, we set out to empower the next generation of architects.
This case study delves into the ongoing and remarkable transformation of Worcester Memorial Auditorium (locally known as the Aud), an architectural treasure steeped in history. Explore the collaborative endeavors between Existing Conditions and DBVW Architects as they strive to preserve its storied past while envisioning a future where it thrives as a cutting-edge forum for commercial entertainment.
Don't miss our exclusive interview with Tami Hughes, Senior Associate at DBVW Architects – watch the case study video below and gain valuable insights into the progress of the remarkable, reimagined Worcester Memorial Auditorium.
History of the Worcester Memorial Auditorium
According to the Architectural Heritage Foundation, September 10, 1931, was the day that construction commenced at the project site, marking the beginning of an ambitious endeavor. Two years after the groundbreaking, the Aud was completed at a cost of $2 million, constructed from Deer Island granite, Indiana limestone, and marble. On September 26, 1933, Worcester citizens gathered for the dedication ceremony, kicking off a week of celebratory events and concerts.
The Worcester Memorial Auditorium under construction (From the collection of the Worcester Historical Museum, Worcester, Massachusetts)
The Commemorative Dedication Book described the Aud as “an enduring tribute to those whose sacrifice was sublime, a majestic memorial for the use and benefit of many generations.”
The Aud, a remarkable, historic structure, stands as a tribute to the brave veterans of Worcester who served during World War I. This architectural gem showcases the Art Deco style, characterized by its intricate and decorative design.
(From the collection of the Worcester Historical Museum, Worcester, Massachusetts)
Over the years, the Auditorium has witnessed periods of vacancy, but it also has a history of diverse utilization. Its restoration and revitalization present a complex and exciting undertaking due to its vast auditorium, a charming smaller theater known as "The Little Theater," and an extensive basement area.
One of the most remarkable features of the Auditorium is its main lobby, where visitors can marvel at original murals that have endured the test of time, nearly a century old and remarkably well-preserved. The prospect of reopening these cherished spaces to the public is an exciting development, promising to breathe new life into this historic venue and allowing its rich history to be experienced once more.
The Worcester Memorial Auditorium’s Main Mural (image courtesy of DBVW Architects)
Partnering with DBVW Architects
Existing Conditions' collaboration with Tami Hughes and the dedicated team at DBVW Architects has been a recurring and valued partnership in our line of work. DBVW Architects stands as one of our premier clients, and our Founder and CEO, Kurt Yeghian, has shared a professional relationship with them for almost two and a half decades.
The Worcester Memorial Auditorium project is unlike any other, and it demands a level of attention to detail and expertise. On August 19, 2022, DBVW Architects selected Existing Conditions to document the 50,000-square-foot historic building. Existing Conditions was committed to providing a comprehensive and accurate record of the Auditorium's current state and condition. The team of experts at Existing Conditions has extensive experience documenting historic buildings, and DBVW Architects was able to leverage our expertise in this project.
Scope of Work Evolution
The evolution of the scope of work for this project involved several stages. Initially, over five years ago, Existing Conditions’ focus was on safeguarding the building's exterior envelope, necessitating detailed scanning of the exterior elevations and intricate roof levels, all anchored to a city datum. By prioritizing the documentation of the exterior shell, Existing Conditions eliminated concerns about future water damage or environmental harm.
This phase included a 3D Revit model, exterior elevations, floor plans, reflected ceiling plans, interior elevations, and a roof plan of the Auditorium. However, due to access limitations, certain areas were not captured at that time. DBVW Architects proceeded to work with the data they had until the project scope evolved.
3D Revit model to the 2D exterior elevation
In 2022, DBVW Architects contracted Existing Conditions to complete the scanning of the remaining spaces and perform a high-resolution scan of the attic area. The attic area was of particular importance as it needed to be scanned to accommodate new loads for lighting and speakers. On August 19, 2022, Existing Conditions began scanning the remaining spaces of the building, ensuring comprehensive data collection of the entire Auditorium. In addition to the attic, these areas also included the basement, the Little Theater’s control room, and the catwalk.
The processing of the data was completed on September 1, 2022, and modeling began the following day. DBVW Architects requested that the newly acquired scan data be seamlessly stitched together with the old point cloud data to inform their in-house model. This iterative approach allowed DBVW Architects to take the new point cloud data and update their model in-house. Existing Conditions sent the final set of deliverables on September 6, 2022.
Laser scan data with building information model (BIM) overlay
DBVW Architects emphasized the unique challenges posed by the Auditorium’s historical origins. As this grand structure was constructed during a time when people were of smaller stature, addressing contemporary ADA compliance requirements became a formidable task. The complex layout of multiple levels and intricate structural elements presented hurdles in ensuring accessibility for all. Despite these challenges, their design team expressed optimism about the project's future, eagerly anticipating its transformation from design to reality.
Rendering by DBVW Architects
Existing Conditions shed light on the paramount issue at hand—providing accurate documentation for a magnificent but deteriorating architectural gem. The Worcester Memorial Auditorium, with its rich history and dedication to the arts, had suffered neglect over the years, reaching a point where mere maintenance and scheduled upgrades were insufficient. It became evident that a more comprehensive restoration effort was needed.
Fortunately, a coalition of benefactors and stakeholders stepped forward, providing the necessary funding to embark on this vital mission to save and revive the cherished landmark. This collaborative endeavor, driven by a shared passion for preservation and restoration, promises to breathe new life into a building that has long needed serious attention.
Existing Conditions encountered a few challenges on site. The interior of this historic structure centered on challenging spaces, including the upper floors and mechanical areas, with narrow, intricate catwalks, limited lighting, and heightened safety concerns due to the building's age. Notably, this building featured a rare "back-to-back" configuration of a smaller theater alongside the main auditorium, doubling the complexity of the scanning task.
Laser scan data of the catwalk in pitch black conditions
This project holds a special place for Existing Conditions, knowing that our work served as the cornerstone upon which the entire restoration effort was built. It's immensely satisfying to be part of a project where you witness a building coming back to life, especially one as significant as the Auditorium and its surroundings. Situated at a pivotal crossroads in the neighborhood, this endeavor transcended mere construction—it was about rejuvenating the very fabric of the community it resides in.
Laser scan data with building information model (BIM) overlay
The meticulous phasing of the work was critical to its success. By prioritizing the documentation of the exterior shell, Existing Conditions eliminated concerns about future water damage or environmental harm. This methodical approach not only ensured structural integrity but also worked within the project's budget constraints. Overall, our drawings played a fundamental role in laying the groundwork for the entire project. Seeing this collaboration come to fruition, with our work as the bedrock foundation, was a truly gratifying experience.
Floor plan of the Worcester Memorial Auditorium
In navigating the challenges on-site, certain fundamental scanning strategies proved indispensable. These included a meticulous understanding of the project's scope, planning a strategic scanning route, ensuring ample overlap in scan data, conducting supplementary scans when necessary, and maintaining a deliberate pace in intricate spaces to capture every detail effectively. Furthermore, meticulous note-taking and clear communication of site conditions to the processing team played a pivotal role in ensuring a seamless workflow beyond the scanning phase.
This successful partnership has proven immensely valuable in DBVW Architects’ document preparation processes, streamlining their work and saving them valuable time. With access to accurate scan data, the team at DBVW Architects has minimized the need for revisiting sites to capture missed dimensions, enhancing the efficiency of our operations. Existing Conditions’ extensive history of working together made our joint venture on this unique and intricately detailed project all the more exciting.
How This Project Was Unique
The Worcester Memorial Auditorium project is an exceptional blend of architectural magnificence, historical resonance, and forward-thinking innovation. Its striking grandeur, marked by a colossal auditorium rich in intricate detailing, sets it apart as an architectural gem of rare scale and style. The project posed significant scanning challenges, with an abundance of scans required and a massive database to manage, including point cloud data in color for historical preservation purposes.
Laser scan data in color of the Worcester Memorial Auditorium
Beyond its architectural allure, the Auditorium has a unique history as a performance space that has hosted renowned artists for over a century. What further distinguishes it is its intrinsic connection to acoustics, designed not just for visual spectacle but to enhance the auditory experience, making it doubly unique.
However, the project's distinctiveness transcends its architectural splendor. It proposes reimagining the Auditorium's purpose as a venue for commercial entertainment, including interactive media and an ESports arena.
This harmonious fusion of tradition and innovation represents a remarkable endeavor, breathing new life into a century-old structure while preserving its historical essence. It stands as a testament to the audacity of revitalization, where the past meets the future. In essence, this project doesn't merely restore; it reinvents, creating a unique synthesis of heritage and progress.
ESports Arena concept by DBVW Architects
Dive into the visual narrative of Worcester Memorial Auditorium's ongoing transformation into a forum for commercial entertainment with our eBook – download now for a concise, graphics-rich overview!
Where Does This Project Stand Now?
Currently, DBVW Architects is in the second phase of the historic application project. They have been diligently collaborating with the National Park Services to secure approval for their designs. At this juncture, DBVW Architects is on the right track and making significant progress towards the submission of its application.
Aerial drone media of the exterior of the Worcester Memorial Auditorium
About the Client DBVW Architects
DBVW Architects is a dynamic firm comprising 34 dedicated professionals who bring their expertise to a diverse range of architectural projects. Their portfolio encompasses various architectural realms, including historic preservation, affordable housing, high-end residential designs, institutional projects, and commercial endeavors. This multifaceted approach not only reflects their versatility but also keeps the work engaging and exciting.
Tami Hughes, Senior Associate at DBVW Architects has over 20 years of architectural experience and advanced knowledge of Revit. She wears multiple hats at DBVW Architects, seamlessly transitioning from being a pivotal team member on project teams and overseeing extensive consultant teams to serving as their adept Revit Manager. Her relentless drive and can-do spirit consistently exceed expectations, garnering admiration from clients and colleagues alike.
Tami Hughes, Senior Associate of DBVW Architects (image courtesy DBVW Architects)
“I have been collaborating with Existing Conditions for over a decade now and have always found its scans to be an invaluable tool in the work that we do. Having the scan data really saves us time during the construction document process and allows us to go back to the building without setting a foot in there. The accuracy of the scan and the information that it conveys makes coordination a breeze!” - Tami Hughes, Senior Associate of DBVW Architects.
DBVW Architects is renowned for their attentive listening, their penchant for laughter, and their hands-on approach to projects. They are not afraid to roll up their sleeves and dive into the nitty-gritty, whether it means surveying from scaffolding heights or measuring within crawl spaces. Their commitment extends to helping clients navigate challenges with creative solutions and informed decisions, all while maintaining a comfortable and clear communication style. Ultimately, DBVW Architects' objective is to ensure that clients not only benefit from their architectural expertise but also relish the entire process as much as the final solution.
Leverage our decades of experience, state-of-the-art equipment, and expertise. Having partnered on historic projects with some of the best architects across the country for 25 years, Existing Conditions has a diverse portfolio of experience. Let us be your eyes in the field so you can devote your time to what you do best. Schedule a free consultation with us today by clicking here.
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This case study delves into the ongoing and remarkable transformation of Worcester Memorial Auditorium (locally known as the Aud), an architectural...