Northern Sky Theater Creative Center & Gould Theater,designed by Madison-based firm Strang, Inc., has been awarded In Business’ 2020 Commercial Design Award for Best New Development or Renovation in the Retail Category. The annual In Business Commercial Design Awards recognize the best commercial design projects built in the state of Wisconsin.
The Creative Center, located in Fish Creek, Wisconsin, features 23,600 square feet of space, housing the theater, box office, storage, and rehearsal space all on one property. Before the completion of this project, the company operated without a permanent home, instead renting out space across Door County to maintain daily operations and develop performances for the theater’s 35,000 annual visitors. The addition of the Creative Center has allowed the company to consolidate all of its operations and have a year-round presence in Door County.
Northern Sky opened the new theater to the public on August 30, 2019 and ran its first fall production through October.
“The response was beyond the expectation of the company, with performances needing to be added in order to fulfill the demand for tickets,” said Northern Sky’s Artistic Director, Jeff Herbst. “The show became the best-selling, highest-grossing fall show in the company’s twenty-eight years of doing a fall production. Similarly, the holiday production far outperformed its predecessors, more than doubling the attendance and box office take for the same number of shows.”
“The design expression of the project is decidedly forward-looking and modern, at the same time it has been sensitively designed to fit into its rural Door County context,” said Strang Executive Vice President and Chief Design Officer, Peter Tan, who was also the design architect for the project. “Another unique characteristic of this project is the introduction of daylight into the theater through vertically proportioned 3-foot-wide by 20-foot-tall windows that mirror the vertical pines surrounding Northern Sky’s outdoor Park Theater. This is highly unusual, because lighting an indoor theater performance typically requires complete darkness. Daylight control is provided when needed, by tall, beautifully crafted shutters which can also be left open at dusk to afford patrons with a delightful outdoor-like experience of this theater nestled in the woods.”
Preserving the natural surroundings of the property was an important consideration in the project’s design. The site survey identified trees of a certain size that were to be preserved, and the landscape design incorporated native plants and organic hardscaping to blend the buildings with the wooded landscape. In addition, a stone farm wall was preserved and repurposed to act as an effective border between the parking area and woods to the south of the facility.
The Northern Sky Theater Creative Center & Gould Theater will be celebrated along with other 2020 In Business Commercial Design Award winners at an awards ceremony in Madison on April 1.