Varsity Theater
Palo Alto, CA
Completed: 1996

The historic Varsity Theater in downtown Palo Alto had fallen into disrepair and was in need of complete interior, exterior and seismic safety repair and renovation. To save this landmark building, a plan for adaptive re-use was developed through a lengthy public review process. The result is a beautifully restored exterior and interior theater shell and a classic new rear facade with a large bookstore/cafe as the tenant.

Seismic upgrade of the old concrete structure, while allowing for preservation of the historic decoration as well as allowing for the building to one day be returned to a theater use, was an extremely difficult challenge. The new second floor is removable (to re-open the main theater pavilion) and the old projection booth is retained and sealed off.

Historic rehabilitation of the theater includes repair of all decorative plaster motifs and interior wall and ceiling finishes, refurbishing of historic light fixtures, replacement/replication of the patterned concrete flooring in the open forecourt and completely new color palette inside and out. Column capitals, decorative plaster frieze and Churrigueresque arch are gilded. The result is a magical effect, which has brought this important building back into contemporary use.