Honorable Mention - SCUP Excellence in Architecture for Building Additions, Renovation or Adaptive Reuse

University of Virginia

Ruth Caplin Theater
University of Virginia - Ruth Caplin Theater
Jury Comments
". . . hugely transforms the quad . . . I love the siting and form of the building . . . small program that has a big impact . . ."


    • Site – 1 acre; Building – 24,000 sq ft
    • LEED Silver
    • Adds a 300-seat thrust theater and lobby to the existing Drama Building.
    • Features audience seating surrounding three sides of the stage.
    • The space has been designed to accommodate film and instructional uses.
    • Connects across a new quad to other arts disciplines.
    • A sinuous glass wall introduces natural light into the theatre, flooding the space with light for daytime instructional uses, while still allowing the room to be darkened at any time by automated blackout shades.
    • A new lobby unifies the Drama Building and connects the theatre with two existing venues.
    • The theatre navigates topography, creating more connection and easier access between the Upper and Lower Quad.
    • Catwalk system—visible from the building exterior—and control room are sized to enable “hands-on” instruction in lighting and A/V.
    • Inside the theatre, exposed concrete and painted steel building and catwalk structures support the “techy” aesthetic.
    • The red-fabric clad wooden seats provide a touch of warmth that is further enhanced by the abundant natural light which enters the space through the glass façade.


The project is the cornerstone of the Arts Precinct Master Plan, a central principle of which is the creation of interdisciplinary connections between Art, Architecture, the Arts Library, Music and Theatre. Before, the steep hillside isolated Drama and the lower quad from Architecture, Fine Arts, Arts Library, and the upper quad. The thrust theatre solves this topographical problem and creates a new transparent façade to the existing Drama Building, expanding the visibility of the department to non-majors.

Due to tight site constraints, the site for the new thrust theatre is in front of the existing Drama Building and within the footprint of the Arts Quadrangle. The theatre’s location enabled the transformation of the front of the Drama Building while also solving a longstanding problem with the quad’s topography. With stairs alongside the new theatre’s façade and a green roof terrace, the building traverses the hillside and makes connections between the upper and lower quad for the first time.

Project Team

William Rawn Associates, Architects, Inc.; also R.W. Sullivan Consulting Engineers; Threshold Acoustics; Theatre Projects Consultants; Tillotson Design Associates; Dewberry & Davis; Olin Partnership