AKA: Century 21 Exposition, Playhouse, Seattle, WA; Seattle Center, Intiman Playhouse, Seattle, WA

Structure Type: built works - exhibition buildings - exposition buildings

Designers: General Construction Company (firm); Kirk, Wallace, McKinley AIA and Associates, Architects (firm); Worthington, Skilling, Helle and Jackson, Structural Engineers (firm); Paul Hayden Kirk (architect); David A. McKinley Jr. (architect); Donald Sheridan Wallace (architect)

Dates: constructed 1961-1962

2 stories

Mercer Street
Seattle Center, Seattle , WA 98109

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Building History

The Seattle architecture firm of Kirk, Wallace and McKinley collaborated with the Seattle engineering firm of Worthington, Skilling, Helle and Jackson on the design of the Playhouse. The General Construction Company erected their design. The 800-seat Playhouse comprised one part of a World's Fair complex lining Mercer Street's south side; 30-foot-high covered walkways connected, from east to west, the Mercer Arena (originally known as the Exposition Building built in 1928) on the Opera House (originally the Civic Auditorium), Exhibition Hall, and the Playhouse. Kirk, Wallace and McKinley and its consulting engineers designed the brick-veneered Playhouse and Exhibition Hall together as an ensemble. Unlike many of the exposition's buildings, the Playhouse was intended to be a permanent cultural addition. Originally, works by Northwest artists adorned the Playhouse's interior and exterior; these included a bronze in a courtyard pool by James FitzGerald (1910-1973), and interior artworks by painter Kenneth Callahan (1905-1986), sculptor Philip McCracken (b. 1928), and painter Margaret Tomkins (1916-2002), who was married to FitzGerald. A variety of live performances by dancers, actors, singers and comedians utilized the Playhouse stage during the Century 21 Exposition.


Following the fair, the City of Seattle leased the Playhouse to the Seattle Repertory Theatre, who utilized it from 1962-1983; at that time, the Seattle Rep erected the nearby Bagley Wright Theatre, and moved its operations there. In 1987, the Intiman Theatre Company, organized in 1972, moved into the former Playhouse, following renovations costing $1.2 million. The alterations cut the seating capacity to 446, and created steeply-pitched rows close to the stage. The usual proscenium was removed and replaced with a semi-thrust stage, one that jutted slightly into audience seating. The Intiman Company undertook other changes to the Playhouse in the 1990s, building a detached rehearsal hall behind the existing theatre. The building project of the Seattle World's Fair helped to stimulate the local theatre scene, by providing up-to-date venues in which to present plays. The construction of the Bagley Wright Theatre in 1983 indicated the health of theatre in Seattle at that time and further stimulated interest in the performing arts during the 1980s-1990s.

PCAD id: 5974