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The Strand, American Conservatory Theater (A.C.T.)

Winner - Spark!

Competition: Spark:Communication
Designer: Lonny Israel - Associate Director, Graphics and Branding Studio
Design Type: Wayfinding, signage, environmental graphics
Company / Organization / School: Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP
Website: http://www.som.com
Team Members: Environmental Graphics, Architecture, and Structural Engineering: Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP Owner: American Conservatory Theater

The Strand, a once derelict movie house in San Francisco, has been transformed into a second home for the city’s preeminent nonprofit theater company, American Conservatory Theater (A.C.T.). The redefined space houses an intimate proscenium theater, educational facilities, a public lobby and cafe, and a black box theater and rehearsal space. The program is inserted within the shell of the former 725-seat cinema, overlaying essential modern theater elements on top of the raw backdrop of the original building. SOM was tasked with creating the Strand’s identity – one clearly identifiable as A.C.T., a 50-year-old institution, but tailored to reflect the new space and its mission. Focused on new work, emerging artists, arts education, and community outreach, the Strand’s identity had to convey the unadorned immediacy of experimental theater and reflect the gritty, transitional aspects of its surrounding neighborhood. The stencil, a staple of backstage labeling, was used to express the direct, stripped-down simplicity of the Strand’s space and program. This theme was carried throughout the building’s environmental graphics and signage, including the exterior blade and canopy, interior wayfinding, and donor wall. Lettering and pictograms were painted directly on the walls, or cut into metal sheets to resemble industrial stencil sets.