Colorado Academy – Leach Center for the Performing Arts

  • area / size 18,000 sqft
  • Completed 2021
  • Shears Adkins Rockmore Architects (SA+R) completed Colorado Academy’s Leach Center for the Performing Arts in Denver, Colorado.

    The Leach Center for Performing Arts is a new, 21,000 square foot arts education facility at the Colorado Academy. An independent, co-ed, college prep school in Denver, Colorado established in1906, the school serves students in Pre-Kindergarten through Grade 12. With the campus population climbing above 1,000 students in recent years, a capital campaign began in 2014 to help modernize the 94-acre wooded campus’ facilities. Known as the “See it Through” campaign, the fundraising effort was launched in tandem with a 20-year campus master planning effort, evaluating the existing facilities and infrastructure and potential opportunities for expanded educational spaces.

    Explorations for the Leach Center project began with this campus-wide master plan, identified as a key public and shared space where the expansion of space and visibility of the school’s mission could add value to the school’s experience. This goal became the driving backbone for the design effort.

    The design process incorporated the perspectives of long-time campus administrators, arts department instructors, students, and parents, included through several hands-on work sessions in early schematic design phases. In addition, two key donors (parents of current CA students) played significant role in the shaping of the project, thanks to their own personal experience with the performing arts and passion for its emotional and intellectual impact.

    The resulting theater seats up to 500 people, doubling the capacity of the campus’ former theater and creating a new assembly space designed to host the entire upper and lower school groups in a single setting. This featured theater also features high-end digital sound and lighting systems; an orchestra pit; a black box theater; and a scene shop. Two features typically only seen in professional theaters, walkable catwalks and a 48-foot fly loft, also allow teachers and students to better install lights for shows and to develop full pieces of scenery to be lowered and raised to the stage for speedy backdrop changes during a performance.

    A large cantilever, spilling out over the entry lobby, connects interior gathering spaces directly with the outdoors, aligning with the core project mission of connecting the campus to the performing arts. An outdoor performance space and hard surface pre- and post-function patios were also designed into the site to further this mission as well. These carefully envisioned outdoor elements capitalize on Colorado’s well-regarded climate while also lowering the cost of the project through reducing the need for air-conditioned interior space options.

    Design: Shears Adkins Rockmore Architects (SA+R)
    Photography: David Lauer Photography