Message Us
Message Us

A.C.T. Strand Theater

Historic & Modern: The Best of Both Worlds

San Francisco, CA


Bruce Damonte Architectural Photographer

How do you preserve the historic charm of a 1917 San Francisco cinema while making it functional for modern-day live theater? Salter collaborated with SOM and the American Conservatory Theater (A.C.T.) to do just that. The A.C.T. Strand Theater project called for a custom-engineered solution to celebrate the building’s historic identity while bringing it up to modern standards. Our team considered the client’s big picture vision, as well as the experience of theater-goers, to find the balance between acoustical function and architectural form.

Balancing Acoustical Advantages with Architectural Form

As in any project bringing together the old and the new, we aimed to create the best of both worlds. We were faced with several challenges:

  • Impossible to have all technical acoustical advantages and preserve all historic charm
  • Multitude of team decisions to balance historic identity with updated architecture and acoustics
  • Atypical building with no set best practices or rule of thumb to follow
  • Hedging acoustical liabilities without losing sense of place (i.e., windows overlooking busy city plaza)

Discovering What’s Possible

To meet each challenge, we listened closely to the client, as well as the design team’s goals and concerns while discovering what was possible. We educated and empowered our client to make calculated decisions, always leading with the big picture vision. Our process included:

  • Detailed menu of options including practical compromises and benefits
  • Adapting to asymmetrical nature of the space featuring box seating along only one side of the house
  • Custom fit reflective panels exposing existing building without compromising room’s function
  • Designing a modern telecommunications/data infrastructure for point-of-sale and general network data applications
  • Intrusion, access, and video surveillance systems to secure the theater at its Mid-Market location

Achieving A Space of Character and Clarity

Today, the A.C.T. Strand Theater meets contemporary acoustic standards while maintaining the look and feel of a charming older theater. Patrons enjoy an in-the-moment theater experience with high quality acoustics, along with these outcomes:

  • New box seating increases ticket sales and offers diverse viewing experiences
  • Excellent speech intelligibility without the use of microphones for an intimate, natural setting
  • One-of-a-kind white box theater highlighting sense of place with original historic windows overlooking Market Street
  • Celebration of live performing arts honoring the intentions of the writers, directors, and performers