Mesa Community College Performing Arts Center

Reinventing performance from entertainment


Mesa Community College


Mesa, Arizona


19,500 sq ft new / 24,550 sq ft remodel


Learning, Cultural, Reinvention

Project Team

Even the most ordinary of buildings can be reborn to have lasting community impact. Prominently perched along the Superstition Freeway, the Performing Arts Center at Mesa Community College began its life as a common movie house that had fallen into disrepair. Renewed as a multipurpose performing arts theater, including new rehearsal rooms, classrooms, and faculty offices, the adaptive reuse of the old theater is an opportunity to create a new cultural catalyst centered on a sustainable building ethic and a connection to the Sonoran Desert.

The architecture is a composition inspired by the movement of music and the provenance of its place. Near the entry, the towering new masonry wall bends out along an ascending diagonal, its progression derived from the clarinet glissando in composer George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue”. The corner of the sloping masonry mass opens for rainwater cascading down from the roof to meet the native landscaping surrounding the site.

Two tones of masonry blocks blend across the fold line to accentuate the frozen motion and lead up to the marquee sign marking the entry courtyard carved away from the old theater. Red stanchions repurposed from the original theater seats dot the other perimeter walls and contrast with their raw, raked stucco, casting shadows that move with the passing sun and evoke the sense of a silent melody.

A light-filled lobby connects the entry to the main theater and provides space for impromptu performances through the stepped amphitheater leading to the faculty offices above. Inside the main theater, a shell of concrete block wraps around the house. Flowing red velour curtains accentuate and oppose the solid, neutral tones of the masonry while balancing the acoustics within the space. The scalloped masonry walls utilize the density of the concrete block and the subtle variations in its surface to spread sound across the audience. Undulations of the masonry units, starting as large fields near the stage and dissipating down to individual blocks at the back, resonate the sounds throughout the chamber. The movement of these walls not only recalls the dynamic facades of the theater’s exterior; it echoes the kinetic energy of the performances within.



“We have entertained thousands of patrons, created educational experiences for our talented students, and established ourselves as an important part of the community…  The arts at MCC and in the Fiesta District are thriving because of you!”


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