Mecanoo and Marvel Architects release their plans for the revamped Jacob’s Pillow Doris Duke Theatre including advanced technological capabilities, flexible performance spaces, and a sustainable, accessible design 

Becket, Massachusetts, USA

“For me, what was inspiring arriving at Jacob’s Pillow is the energy of the festival and experiencing performance in this unique natural setting,” says Francine Houben.

Jacob’s Pillow Doris Duke Theatre

“We wanted to make a building that embodied Indigenous principles of connecting with the land and thinking seven generations forward. The sequence of moving between outdoors and indoors and the sculptural layering of the building emphasizes the feeling of movement in space, while firmly rooted to the site in this special place in the Berkshires.”

Embracing Jacob’s Pillow Doris Duke Theatre’s diverse history, Mecanoo and Marvel design together the new theater creating an accessible and inclusive space for dialogue, collaboration, and education, that will replace the former space which was lost to a fire of undetermined cause in November 2020 while incorporating a new digital backbone.

The ability of the facility to adapt to different programmatic needs as well as future technical upgrades will be key to the theatre’s purpose as a maker space and digital lab and will ensure long-term resiliency and future growth.

Jacob’s Pillow Doris Duke Theatre

The design allows for multi-use flexibility so that the building can support performances, events, residencies, and more, sometimes simultaneously.

The theatre will seat up to 230 patrons in the main performance space, with an array of seating and stage configurations. 

The building will feature two lobbies with sliding doors, which will create multiple entrances and exits to the building.

The lobby on the west side of the building will serve to welcome visitors in from the spacious artist quadrangle, and will also provide a covered and ventilated space for pre-show talks alongside a new exhibition space.

The lobby on the east side of the building will serve as a warm-up and rehearsal space for artists, and can also host receptions and meetings as needed.

Jacob’s Pillow Doris Duke Theatre

This embrace of the site and nature, balanced with a need to push the boundaries of dance, embodies the ambition for the theatre and captures the magic of performing at Jacob’s Pillow.

Contributions from Indigenous artists to the design will include visual art installations, a medicinal garden with local and indigenous plantings near the entrance of the building, and a fire pit for gatherings and celebrations.

Jacob’s Pillow has continued to engage community members, artists, technicians, staff and Board members, and Indigenous stakeholders in workshops and engagement sessions to inform the design process. 

The new Doris Duke Theatre will restore a second indoor theater space for Jacob’s Pillow’s annual summer Dance Festival alongside the flagship Ted Shawn Theatre, and provide year-round studio space on the Pillow campus, in addition to the Perles Family Studio, which is home to The School at Jacob’s Pillow and the Pillow Lab, artist-in-residence program.

Jacob’s Pillow Doris Duke Theatre

Project: Jacob’s Pillow Doris Duke Theatre
Architects: Mecanoo Architekten
Lead Architect: Francine Houben
Architects of Record: Marvel Architects PLLC.
Landscape Architects: Marvel Architects PLLC.
Theatre and Acoustics Consultants: Charcoalblue
Client: Jacob’s Pillow
Renderings: Mecanoo Architekten

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