San Francisco War Memorial Opera House Renovation

Retained in 1996 to oversee the complete technical renovation of the earthquake-damaged Opera House, Auerbach Pollock Friedlander’s charge was twofold: bring the building’s outdated theatrical systems into the twenty-first century, while preserving and enhancing the existing architectural values of the 1932 Beaux Arts structure.

Providing full scope theatre consulting and audio-video design services for the renovation and restoration and working closely with the San Francisco Opera and Ballet, the firm designed and developed the replacement of obsolete theatrical infrastructure including the entire theatrical lighting systems and bridges, all backstage communications and sound systems and stage rigging and controls serving both the Opera and the Ballet; and the distribution of audio and video signals throughout the Opera House.

The firm’s first major technical renovation of the Opera House created a platform of new cutting-edge theatrical systems which became standards of the industry. The Ethernet lighting control network – the first fully operational and most advanced of its kind worldwide, and the largest and most complex system using Ethernet to distribute digital multiplex around the theatre –was also the first system to be designed as a lighting “intranet”, allowing technicians to control multiple panels from multiple locations and providing much more artistic flexibility. A fully automated overhead motorized rigging system, integral to the traditional counterweighted scenery flying, doubled the capacity of the original system.

Architects: Skidmore Owings & Merrill and San Francisco Bureau of Architecture
Acoustics: Paoletti Associates Inc.
Size: 176,000 SF
Cost: $84,000,000
Completion: 1997