The Lobero Theater - Santa Barbara, CA
1873- Jose Lobero builds the first legitimate theater/opera house in the area
1924- Lutah Maria Riggs (with George Washington Smith) design the Spanish Colonial Revival building
1939- Registered as a state of California historical landmark
2013- KBZ renovates the theatre
The Lobero Theatre is located within the ‘Presidio Neighborhood’, the historic center of Santa Barbara’s cultural life. It has been a frequent stop for national touring performances, hosting a variety of artists; from Marcel Marceau to Donovan, from the Pickle Family Circus to the Vienna Boys Choir. It has also seen countless local productions of plays, operas and solo performances.
The renovation project completed in 2013 focused on improving the ‘audience experience’ by offering better comfort and convenience through new interior temperature control systems, expanded restroom facilities, ADA upgrades and more comfortable seating. With these improvements it befits its reputation as a world-class venue.
Air conditioning was added with minimal visual impact to both the building’s exterior and interior appearance. This challenge was met by intensive coordination amongst the design team to determine unobtrusive locations for the necessarily large mechanical equipment and ducting. Within the auditorium, the cooled air is supplied and returned in a manner that was designed to minimally disrupt the detail and character of the interiors.
A combination of new and restored elements created roomier and more comfortable seats while maintaining their characteristic look. The original stepped oak flooring was reconstructed to maintain a level surface at the seating areas to allow for easy access. Row-to-row spacing was increased to provide more leg room and sightlines were improved by staggering the seating.
The interiors now feel brighter and livelier due in large part to the lighting design. KBZ worked closely with Ann Kale Associates resulting in a dramatic transformation by concealing new efficient and high performance light sources within the original ‘wrought iron’ light fixtures. The character-defining columns were at last highlighted and previously unseen details such as plaster ‘comedy and tragedy’ masks sitting atop the column capitals were revealed for the first time. Illumination of the coffered ceiling now showcases the newly restored intricate design.
Prior to the renovation, national music publications and performing artists had favorably recognized the Lobero for its inherent acoustics. Care was taken to maintain the theatre’s original acoustical integrity while adding a flexible component to satisfy a wider range of performer’s acoustical demands. Changeable panels were included and designed to be added when an increase in reflective values are required.
A new cohesive system of donor recognition was developed that integrates with the design of the theatre and allows for growth and change within the system. The restrooms were expanded to nearly double the number of stalls now allowing for the option of shorter intermissions! Modern low water use fixtures blend with tiles typically found on George Washington Smith projects to stay in keeping with a the Spanish Colonial Revival design.
Extensive work to the site provides wheelchair access to the entry and has resulted in a large brick plaza that serves as a gathering space in support of performances. The new plaza was based on George Washington Smith’s original raised terrace ‘Esplanade’ design and includes a wheelchair compliant ramp that is used by patrons of all abilities as a major point of access. The exterior lighting design announces ‘Showtime’ during performance nights by dramatically highlighting the façade of this historic landmark.
Designated a City Landmark in 1981, the renovation was reviewed by the City of Santa Barbara’s Historic Landmarks Commission and followed the design guidelines for El Pueblo Viejo Landmark District. In addition to this formal review, KBZ worked closely with the Lobero Theatre Foundation to meet with a variety of interested individuals and community groups to educate, listen to, and act on, a variety of issues and ideas.
Close cooperation between the Lobero Theatre Foundation, Schipper Construction and KBZ resulted in a successful and rewarding project that stayed on budget and met an ambitious 6 month construction schedule.
Santa Barbara Beautiful, 2014 Property Award for Historic Revitalization