Dash Marshall

After operating out of borrowed space for a handful of years, Detroit Public Theatre is ready to occupy their own building. Specifically, this chunk:


We’ve designed a completely new space for them by renovating this 100+ year old garage building—which, in Detroit, makes it one of the first automotive garages in the country.


Though the building is anonymous, we have turned the original trusswork into a focal point and pulled the interior renovations down away from the ceiling to expose them throughout.

Lobby - daytime Lobby - night closec curtain Lobby - night closec curtain Animation showing the lobby throughout the course of a typical day

Traditionally theatres have used ‘poche’ to make a fake world. DPT embraces the existing conditions of the real world. We celebrate the historical facts of our building, emblemized by the trusses. This creates a continual, ceremonial plenum over the heads of arriving guests, performers, and back of house team alike.

Diagram Left: L’Opera, Paris, 1875. Right: DPT, Detroit, 2021.

Between the lobby and the black box is a plane of acoustic glass, bringing a tantilizing glimpse of the black box into the lobby. During performances, and only at that time, the theatre is closed off from the outside world by drawing curtains. This effectively reverses the ritual of the theatre: instead of shutting the stage off from the city by default and temporarily opening curtains to reveal its delights, we’ve designed a space that is open by default and only pulls the curtains for the brief moments of the performance.

Diagram Left: Broadway Theatre, Utica, 1957. Right: DPT, Detroit, 2021.

In addition to 200-seat blackbox theatre and accompanying back of house spaces, the building will include offices for DPT as well as a lobby and bar, The Green Room.

Blackbox - prep Blackbox - rehearsal Animation showing the black box