Preserving New York’s Cultural Treasures

February 15, 2011 in Uncategorized | Comments (0)

When one thinks of theater, the first place that comes to mind is usually New York’s Broadway Theater district.  Dotted with 40 active theaters, Broadway productions sold over $1 billion worth of tickets in the 2009-2010 season and accommodated almost 12 million attendees.  This is no small feat for a league of theater houses which were built mainly in the early 1900s and many of which have been in operation for almost 100 years.

Not surprisingly, Broadway’s theaters have required renovating and updating over the years to meet ever-changing standards for safety and patron comfort.  McLaren has provided engineering services for more than a dozen Broadway theaters, including the 98-year-old Longacre Theatre and the 100-year old Winter Garden Theater, as well as contributed to productions in nearly all of the theaters.  With creativity and meticulousness, McLaren has tackled challenges such as scenery and rigging engineering, repairs to deteriorating structural elements and building envelopes, and evaluating loads on the building structure.

Many times, structural documentation is limited or nonexistent, which leaves McLaren with the task of performing investigations prior to and during construction, and then determining how to keep these older buildings operational and safe while making much needed improvements within a limited budget and tight production booking schedule.  Theater owners may not be fully aware of the multitude of potential hazards found in a pre-Depression era theater, however, after many years of experience working with antique theaters, McLaren has learned to spot simple-to-repair dangers like inadequate ladders and guards, tripping hazards, vulnerable façade and beam encasing elements, and the like.  Perhaps the greatest challenge is to keep pace with the demands of modern productions and expectations of modern audiences in buildings that were originally designed for lightweight scenery, primitive lighting, few mechanical elements, and simple heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems.  McLaren has been instrumental in upgrading and adding lighting positions, determining and improving rigging load capacities, and replacing stage floors, all within the constraints of the existing facilities. 

Through a passion for bringing modernity to some of New York’s oldest treasures while respecting their classic beauty, McLaren has been able to contribute to the successful preservation of this major piece of our national culture.

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