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December 13, 2018

Seattle Opera turns inside out with new $60M HQ on Mercer

Photos by Sean Airhart [enlarge]
NBBJ was the architect and Lease Crutcher Lewis was the general contractor.

This rehearsal area is visible from Mercer Street.

Seattle Opera has moved into its new headquarters after completing a $60 million building on the Seattle Center campus.

The new building is called Seattle Opera at the Center.

The public can come and explore during a free grand opening from 2-5 p.m. on Saturday. There will be musical performances by Seattle Opera's Chorus and Teen Vocal Studio, and a rehearsal of an upcoming production.

The four-story, 105,000-square-foot headquarters consolidates most of Seattle Opera's operations under one roof while creating spaces for teachers, artists, educational programming and community partnerships.

The building is at the southwest corner of Mercer Street and Fourth Avenue North, adjacent to McCaw Hall, the opera's performance space since 2003.

NBBJ was the architect and Lease Crutcher Lewis was the general contractor. Shiels Obletz Johnsen was the project manager.

Other team members include KPFF Consulting Engineers, the civil engineer, and Magnusson Klemencic Associates, the structural engineer.

The building is owned by Seattle Opera, but the site is leased from the city. Mercer Arena was demolished in 2017 to make way for the project.

The new space includes office and operations space for Seattle Opera, with room for rehearsals, props and costumes storage, and public education.

The opera currently leases a warehouse at 200 Terry Ave. N. in South Lake Union for many of these functions.

At the new building, large windows along the street allow passersby to see into the costume shop and community spaces, and observe the technical and artistic aspects of putting together a show.

“Most people think of opera as a black box, where the art is revealed on opening night,” said NBBJ Principal Matthew Somerton in a statement.

“The design of the Seattle Opera at the Center building turns that model inside out, revealing the inner beauty that goes into producing an opera from the beginning: a corner glass-box theater opens rehearsals to the street, tall windows allow anyone to watch the craft of costume making, and classrooms provide ample space for community engagement and apprenticeships.”

Aidan Lang, general director of Seattle Opera, said the new building will enable the opera to reach more than 80,000 people a year through its education and community programs.

“That's as many people who come to see Seattle Opera at McCaw Hall annually,” he said.

Half the funding for the project has been through private donations, with a quarter coming from public funding.

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