Joan & John Mullen Center for Performing Arts
Jeffrey Totaro

Joan and John Mullen Center for the Performing Arts at Villanova University

Voith & Mactavish Architects LLP as Theatre spaces designer & architect of record

It’s curtains up at Villanova’s Joan and John Mullen Center for the Performing Arts, ready for the Fall/Winter 2022 performance season. 

The building is the final project and centerpiece of a major redevelopment along Lancaster Avenue that transforms once-overlooked stretch into a new heart of student life at Villanova. The cultural center anchors the new district and complements Commons, a recently-completed complex (also designed by VMA) that adds 1,100 beds of student accommodations, storefront retail spaces, and a network of landscaped gathering places.

For the Performing Arts Center, VMA combined a full suite of performance venues and educational spaces into a single building, creating a destination cultural hub for the University and the surrounding community. The center equips Villanova to host a range of productions and events, offering everything from state-of-the-art theaters, rehearsal spaces, and reception halls for catered gatherings. 

The 85,000-square-foot building includes three major performance venues: a 400-seat proscenium theater, a 200-seat black-box theater, and a 75-seat Performance Lab for more intimate and experimental productions. 

The proscenium theater features a full fly loft and an elegantly curved balcony that embraces the stage and its gold curtain. The black-box theater accommodates performances in end-stage, thrust, or arena formats thanks to reconfigurable seating. Each of the spaces is outfitted with the latest theatrical lighting and acoustic technologies, allowing the University to host even the most technically sophisticated productions.

The building also arrays a range of educational and support spaces. Fully-equipped production shops allow sets and costumes to be made on-site. Dressing rooms, a green room, a choral room and dance studio, and two flexible classrooms support stage productions. Offices on the second and third floors accommodate faculty, the production manager, building manager, and other department staff.

The sweeping lobby is supported by a full catering kitchen and can host receptions and special events. Full-height windows overlooking the prominent intersection of Lancaster Avenue and Ithan Avenue open the building to the surroundings. On performance nights, the curving lobby—lit by custom chandeliers—will glow like a beacon.

The facade is a contemporary interpretation of the “Villanova Gothic” aesthetic that defines the surroundings, including the nearby Commons Student Housing. Masonry panels were produced off-site for more efficient construction, with each stone carefully positioned to be visually cohesive, capped by cast stone accents. Traditional gabled roofs on either end of the building contrast with the curving main entrance. 

VMA designed the theater spaces and served as Architect of Record for the entire project. Robert A.M. Stern Architects designed the facade and lobby.

The building is on track for LEED Silver certification.

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