Address: 407 East Canal Street
One of the creative and culture hubs of Richmond exists in an awkward spot of Canal St, immediately bordered on three sides by parking and the Downtown Expressway on the other. Yet the quality of design doesn’t suffer from it. A marvelous 52,000 square foot renovation to a 1928 concrete factory houses the Richmond Ballet.
The design philosophy, according to the architect, was “a new lightweight structure of steel and glass designed to literally hang off, or ‘dance’ on, the face of the existing concrete frame, embodying the motion, tension, energy and dynamic of dance.” It certainly maintains an aesthetic of a factory through exposed duct work and gray stone. The building uses an innovative method of shifting practice spaces into performance spaces, utilizing square footage as much as possible. The practice spaces open up not only to the outside in order to receive light but also to the interior bent halls, enlivening the whole building with the movement of the dancers within. The mostly transparent structure enables passers-by to visually participate in the inherently performative quality of dance, the practice and exhibition spaces on the top floors slightly leaning out from the building, announcing themselves. An angled entrance awning suspended by cables on the northern side of the pre-existing structure externally alludes to the new intervention, as a similar angling appears on the roof of the south end of the building.
With construction funds provided by Reynolds Metals Company, state of the art technology was installed such as cushioned flooring and sound-proof walls and ceilings. Other amenities of the new structure include six dance studios, a library, box office, freight elevator and set and costume design studio.