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American Legion Hollywood Post 43

Figueras interviewed the Member of Post 43, Project manager for the American Legion theater remodelation, William Steele, which we are glad to share along with the Architect's Note by Peter Grueneisen.

American Legion Hollywood Post 43 (Foto 1)

The Architect's Note, Peter Grueneisen, in the Description section following this link.

The Interview

William Steele Theatre Project Manager
Fernando Rivero Project Leader

Every project is unique. Was it difficult to identify the initial concept of the project to be developed?

Identifying the initial concept wasn't too difficult. Getting from the concept to the built reality was difficult. The initial concept was to remodel a 90-year-old auditorium in an architecturally significant building in Los Angeles. The building has been continuously owned by members of Hollywood Post 43, which is part of the American Legion organization. The auditorium has served multiple functions over the years, one of which was as a movie theater for member entertainment. We focused on modernizing the movie theater aspect, but also wanted to accommodate live music, filming, corporate summits and other uses. To achieve that flexibility, one of the things we did was to make the first five rows of seats removable. We also compromised with a reasonably "dry" acoustical environment, not an over-dampened one.

American Legion Hollywood Post 43

What was the biggest challenge of this project?

The biggest challenge we initially faced was how to get good sound in the auditorium. Firstly, the Legion Theater room is not an acoustically optimal shape. The room's ratios are bad for standing waves and resonances, and it has mostly hard, concrete surfaces that efficiently reflect sound waves. Secondly, our goal was to have a reasonably "dry" acoustical environment, not an over-dampened one. Finding the right balance was very challenging. We did a lot of acoustical research to determine the required treatment, which was not easy because the acoustic requirements are different for movies and live events. Interestingly, one of the reasons why we chose Figueras seats was their acoustic performance. They both absorb and diffuse sound in a sympathetic way and significantly contribute to the Legion Theater's superb acoustical profile.

What atmosphere did you need to create?

We didn't need to create atmosphere--we already had it. The auditorium was a breathtaking space to enter even before we started the project. We knew we had something special. Nevertheless, we needed to make changes. We decided to evoke an old Hollywood atmosphere, but still look forward using new materials and technology. We did not want imitate other famous theaters in Hollywood. One of the things that makes our space unique is the board form concrete arches and walls. Instead of hiding or covering them up with acoustical treatments we decided to highlight them by stripping off layers of old paint and using simple architectural lighting for dramatic effect. The results are spectacular. We now have a space that is warm, luxurious and inviting -- the 'old Hollywood'. It feels organic to the entire building yet delivers the high performance that clients and filmgoers expect.

Can you explain about the design development?

The design development was done by our architect, Peter Grueneisen, FAIA. Originally from Switzerland, Peter has done a lot of recording studios, media production facilities and post-production facilities. He sees buildings as "musical instruments" unto themselves. Peter sought to honor the Theater's original architecture but bring it up to modern standards with contemporary technology. In other words, not make the hall into a production studio but technically competitive. We worked in very close collaborating with the architect throughout the design development process, and the end results reflects hundreds if not thousands of decisions made by veterans and members of Post 43 who worked on the project, including myself.

American Legion Hollywood Post 43

It is said that the performers and the audience create the experience together... What makes a room to become excellent in order to connect audience and performer?

Fundamentally, in any room you must be able to see and hear properly. We faced a challenge in both aspects. The auditorium originally wasn't designed as a dedicated theater and so sight lines were not optimal and the sound was awful. We found a solution to the hearing, but with the seating we had to make some compromises. We chose the Megaseat 9036 to fill the front 2/3 of the house because it optimized our sight lines and provided more comfort. We filled the back of the room with Top 5039 chairs because they were narrower and fit the space we had to work with better. Ideally, you want one model of seat in the theater for aesthetic reasons but since the theater has opened no one has noticed that we have two different models of seats.

This incredible venue boasts 482 seats; what were the main challenges in the distribution of the seats?

The architect designed a fairly straightforward continental seating layout in the front 2/3 of the auditorium; in the back of the room we replaced the original seats with new seats. The distribution of the seats was complicated by a re-engineered ventilation system. We built air plenums under the front 2/3 of the theater and cored 182 5" vent holes to deliver air under the seats. The seats had to be precisely located to avoid these holes. It got more tricky in the back of the room. The original seats sat directly over an old plenum system with vent holes. The Figueras seats didn't line up well with these holes so we had to cover up many of the vents and core new ones. Our architect, the Figueras engineers, and the installer, Marty Baum, worked out a solution and everything turned out fine.

In a theatre, which relevance has the design of a seat?

A comfortable seat is paramount. Next is aesthetics. The Figueras seats are eminently comfortable--many of our patrons have commented on how comfortable they are to sit for long periods of time--and they look beautiful. We are proud to be the first theater in the U.S. market to have selected the red Wicker fabric. It is gorgeous and perfectly complements the look and feel of the Legion Theater. Moreover, it is easy to clean and feels like it will hold up well for many years of use.

American Legion Hollywood Post 43

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