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Two designs in the running for The Bricks

The Oregon Shakespeare Festival presented two proposed designs for replacing the sloping aging brick courtyard, known as The Bricks, between the Angus Bowmer and Allen Elizabethan theaters at a public meeting Monday.

Representatives of Walker Macy, a Portland landscape architecture design firm, and THA Architecture, also of Portland, based their design proposals on site studies and input from an earlier public meeting in September. Many of the about 100 people attending Monday’s meeting in Carpenter Hall had also been at that meeting.

The two distinct designs address the steep slope of the existing courtyard as well as pedestrian and festival vehicle loading accessibility, configuration of visitor seating, viewing of the Green Show stage, shade and improved lighting.

The proposed changes to the courtyard will bring the space into compliance with the Americans for Disabilities Act. OSF has planned to remodel the courtyard since at least 2007. A 2012 lawsuit brought by Ashland resident Philip Lang, claiming the courtyard area and other areas of the festival are out of compliance with the ADA, is still pending in the U.S. District Court in Medford.

Both proposed designs minimize the existing slope by the Bowmer Theatre with stairs. Rectangular basalt, granite or poured concrete blocks would provide seating with sight lines to the Green Show improved with a raked or terraced lawn. The first concept orients the seating blocks in a diagonal downwards toward the Bowmer entrance. The second design fans the blocks out from the Bowmer wall toward the street. Trees on the site will be preserved and additional landscaping planted.

Both plans eliminate the present disabled access to seating in the Bowmer Theatre. OSF General Manager Ted DeLong said that the festival is addressing the problem by installing an elevator in the Bowmer lobby.

A few audience members also suggested an alternative traffic pattern across the proposed lawn area that could preserve the current entrance.

Walker Macy principals J. Douglas Macy and Chelsea McCann, along with Jonah Cohen of THA, stressed they wanted to keep The Bricks as a “festive space” for performances and as a community gathering spot.

Comments from the audience favored the second design concept. A final proposal will be submitted at another public meeting, tentatively scheduled for January. Final architectural decisions will be made after consultation with DeLong. Construction by Ashland’s Adroit Construction Co. is expected to start November 2015, with completion by January 2016.

The Bricks remodel project received $500,000 preliminary funding from local residents Judy Shih and Joel Axelrod, part of the couple’s $1 million gift to the festival in April of this year. OSF plans a communitywide fundraising campaign for construction once the design and final budget are announced.

The design and construction firms were selected through a competitive bidding process with submissions from architectural and landscape architecture firms from around the Pacific Northwest. THA Architecture and Walker Macy designed OSF’s Thomas Theatre, courtyard and landscaping across Pioneer Street from The Bricks.

Walker Macy is best known for the remodel of Portland’s downtown Pioneer Square. It was involved in remodeling the city’s South Riverfront Park and Mount Tabor Park in southeast Portland. It also designed the High Desert Museum in Bend, the Columbia Gorge Discovery Center in The Dalles and the Roseburg Waterfront Master Plan.

THA Architecture of Portland designed the renovation of the historic St. Mary’s Cathedral in Portland and partnered in the design of the High Desert Museum and the Columbia Gorge Discovery Center.

 Roberta Kent is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Reach her at rbkent@mind.net.