Natomas Charter School is vibrant young campus that is committed to education in the visual and performing arts. As an award winning magnet school for the arts, the school positioned itself on a nationwide arena and gained the support of the school district and community alike to build a Performing Arts facility that could deliver on the same level.

In 2004, visioning began on the Natomas Charter School Performing Arts Theatre (later named the Benvenuti Performing Arts Center) that would rival the best that Sacramento had to offer. Beyond serving as a home for local acts and campus productions, it was intended to provide educational avenues to students looking toward a career in performances in the likes of Broadway and Hollywood. Specifically, this required a “full-fly” theatre with a form tall enough to accommodate the movement of entire stage scenes in one piece; a tension grid for complex lighting arrangements; and, electric rigging components for integration of the latest computer programs. Despite the complex arrangement of technical features, the theatre was designed to be intimate by contrast so as to fully immerse the audience in the environment of the performance.

In a fledging community like Natomas, attention was brought to the theatre by combining a very uniquely “wedge” shaped building with dynamic curved forms so as to express an almost playful, yet inspiring image. Plazas outside the building link the existing campus and community with local artists and art shows, while the foyer provides lighting and support structure to showcase the visual arts within. The idea was to integrate all of the arts under the roof of one facility.

Education takes place everywhere. In the dance room, backstage, control room and even 40’ above the stage floor, provisions are made for student interaction and learning. This helped to provide funding for four separate classroom spaces by the standards established through the California Department of Education.

While the building performs on an intense technical level, the integration of sustainable thought processes made the life-cycle management of this facility more feasible. Skylights provide natural daylight to the backstage areas, foyer and art gallery space. “Low E” glazing is utilized on west facing facades and an improvement of approximately 15% over Title 24 was proven in the design of the building’s envelope and HVAC systems. Uniquely challenging were the ever changing textures and forms, which were tirelessly detailed for sound, air and light infiltration paramount to a performing arts theatre’s function.

In architecture it is often said, “If all the world is a stage, then we are the set designers.” Sometimes the set can be very simple, while others are very complex. Fewer yet are awe-inspiring. It was our hope that the set and stage go hand-in-hand in this case, and that the bringing together of Natomas Charter School, the Community of Natomas and this Center would offer something quite magical in return. Education and performance have definitely found a home within the confines of this empowering structure. It is being hailed as the “most sophisticated theater in Greater Sacramento.” (February 29, 2008 – Supplement to the Sacramento Business Journal)


Natomas, California

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