DePaul Uni­ver­si­ty, The The­atre School

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The inspired design of the new Theatre School building at DePaul University provides a unique, behind-the-scenes glimpse into one of the top professional theatre conservatory programs in the US. See more in this WTTW video tour.

The $72 million, 165,000-square-foot building, devised in unusually deep collaboration with school faculty and administrators, is specifically designed for professional theatre training, with everyone and everything under one roof. Among its many places designed for theatre performance and training, the new five-story structure houses two new theatre spaces: a 250-seat thrust stage theatre and a 100-seat flexible theatre.

Schuler Shook was a close collaborator with Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects (PCPA) throughout the design and construction process. Schuler Shook’s theatre planners were responsible for assisting PCPA in the planning of all performance spaces - seating, sight lines, stages, and backstage support areas; assisting PCPA in planning the overall building, including identifying critical traffic patterns for people and materials throughout the building; and designing and specifying theatre lighting and rigging systems for all performance spaces.

Schuler Shook planned the two main performance spaces, notably the seating layouts, the sightlines, the stages, and also planned, designed, and specified the technical production equipment. For both spaces, Schuler Shook specified all theatre seats, and staggered their size and placement to ensure unobstructed sight lines. The team also specified stage lighting and rigging systems with a high degree of flexibility to allow for current and future technologies.

The lighting design program includes a large and fully equipped Light Lab that allows student lighting designers to experiment with lighting angles, colors, and intensities in a highly intensive studio environment.The building includes ten well equipped acting labs/classrooms that also function as flexible performance spaces. All of the grids, curtains, and lighting systems in these classrooms and studios were designed by Schuler Shook.

Ultimately, the new Theatre School at DePaul will widen artistic horizons, add vitality to the community, and serve as an important new recruitment tool welcoming generations of new students, faculty, artists, performers and audiences for years to come.

The project achieved LEED Gold certification from the US Green Building Council.


Chicago, IL


Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects / Cannon Design


  • USITT Hon­or Award, 2016
  • AIA Chica­go Hon­or Award, 2015
  • Chica­go Build­ing Con­gress CBC/COAA Own­ers’ Choice Award, 2014
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