Saturday, October 1, 2016

Diamond Dreams of Performing Arts Center

Dan Diamond, left, designer of the Dream Center for the Performing Arts,
answers questions about an interior elevation drawing of the building
for John Rabinowitz.
By Venessa Rene

Originally published in the Concord Journal

“For years I have been dreaming about what the ideal performing arts center for the Concord area might look like,” said Dan Diamond, 47-year member of the Concord Band and 11 years as a past member of the Concord Orchestra. This past January, when the potential Powerball jackpot was approaching $1 billion, he speculated about what he would do if he won. High on his list was to build his dream.

“I decided that because (until it is built) there will always be a need for a building like this, I should document my design.”
This design, which Diamond refers to as the Dream Center for the Performing Arts and was essentially complete by the end of May, has not been requested by or produced with the support or endorsement of any organization. The first public showing of Diamond’s proposal for the Dream Center will take place at 51 Walden, Concord, for a week beginning on Oct. 22.

As wonderful as it is, according to Diamond, the shortcomings of 51 Walden, Concord’s current performing arts center, are generally well understood — insufficient capacity (the building is booked nearly solid as a performance venue except in the summer), insufficient seating (for music performances, the maximum audience size is 250), no rehearsal space outside of the auditorium, lack of essential storage space, acoustical problems, insufficient ventilation and lack of air-conditioning — among other issues.

Diamond’s Dream Center includes three sound-isolated independent performance facilities co-existing in one building: theater and music hall, each with stadium seating for 500 and cabaret, with table seating for 400 when its central 40-foot diameter circular stage is in use, and 484 otherwise. It is intended that simultaneous performances in all three facilities be possible. The theater and music hall would both have under-stage music pits for ballet, musical plays, fully-staged opera, large choral works, etc. The cabaret stage could remain at floor level or be raised up to 2 feet above it. It could also be rotated in real time at up to 0.5 RPM. The cabaret would also have a vertical soundproof partition that could be moved into position to allow the cabaret to be used as two large rehearsal rooms or smaller performance facilities. The music hall would have two permanent sectional rehearsal rooms. At the cabaret level is a dance studio and a catering kitchen. The Dream Center and the calculation of its estimated construction cost are documented in drawings, text and tables that contain many more details.

It is obviously very early in the life of the Dream Center concept. As of today, no organization has been created to advance the idea or raise funds for it. While 51 Walden is located in Concord, the Dream Center would be located in that local community which is most interested in becoming the long-term focal point of the performing arts in this area. Issues such as building code and zoning limitations on the height of such a building will be dealt with by that community, which will have recognized the opportunity that the Dream Center represents. Implementation of the Dream Center will certainly be a multi-year process. However, as has been recognized many times in the past, “a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”

Diamond, whose bachelor’s and doctoral degrees are from MIT’s Sloan School of Management, is not an architect, but, he noted, “in order for the building I have designed to become a reality, it will require the participation of, at a minimum, a certified architect, the analysis and input of a structural engineer, as well as planning for acoustics, handicapped accessibility, lighting, electrical wiring, plumbing and heating, ventilation and air conditioning.”

Most of his attention on this project, he said, has been given to performing arts and convenience issues, and in this regard, he says, the Dream Center meets his objectives.

It was not his objective, said Diamond, that the design for the Dream Center be a work of art. Rather, it addresses issues related to — and the functions required of — a next-generation, long-lived, multi-discipline performing arts center for the Concord area. He says that the design for the Dream Center was done “inside-out,” only addressing the exterior appearance of the building once its functional objectives had been met. Eventually, he decided that the Dream Center would be taken more seriously if its exterior were not just blank walls of concrete or stone. Any number of approaches might have been taken, most of which would probably be more expensive than the simple pattern of gray and black columns he chose.

When the design was complete, Diamond sent the Dream Center drawings to about 40 individuals with diverse backgrounds in theater and music, some with intimate knowledge of 51 Walden, some who have never visited the building. About 10 replied with comments more interesting than “too tall” or “never get approved in Concord.” Six replies are quoted in full and are included with the drawings. A few short excerpts are particularly interesting:

“The centers of commerce, banks and others get the best buildings and the most attention. I realize they have the financial element that the arts do not. But what a statement it would be to have an arts center as a showpiece, testifying to the arts as an essential foundation of life, bringing meaning and balance into the lives of people and putting commerce and other short-term elements in their important but proper role in the welfare of the community.”

“First, of course, wow! The concept and the detail you’ve worked through are stupendous.”

“The care and level of detail you’ve put into this conception is truly remarkable... but beyond that, I think this is a truly grand and generous vision. I’ll confess that I’m even somewhat partial to the modernist, austere, skin of the building, with the inevitable caveat that making a judgment about such things means venturing into areas of de gustibus non disputandum.”

“When I saw your first drawings for a Dream Center, I was completely awed by the idea...quite simply, it is visionary.”

51 Walden, said Dan Diamond, has been a 40-year experimental prototype in which the value of a dedicated performing arts center for the Concord area has clearly been proved. The Dream Center takes what has been learned from 51 Walden and integrates it into what he feels will be a performing arts center for the next 200 years.

The complete set of Dream Center drawings and comments will be on display in the lobby of 51 Walden for a week beginning on Oct. 22, which, coincidentally, is the date of the Concord Band’s Fall Concert. One of the pieces in this concert is an arrangement for band of Ravel’s “Boléro.” The snare drum solo in “Boléro” will be played by percussionist Dan Diamond.

A link to a complete set of detailed Dream Center drawings can be obtained by email request to DanDiamond@alum.mit.edu.

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