Arup Celebrates Grand Opening of Orlando's Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts

The engineers for the Sydney Opera House apply their global experience in performing arts center design to create a world-class arts and entertainment destination in Orlando

LOS ANGELES, Nov. 26, 2014 — (PRNewswire) —  Arup, a multidisciplinary engineering and consulting firm with a reputation for delivering innovative and sustainable designs, announced today the grand opening of the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts in Orlando, Fla. Arup provided structural, mechanical, electrical and plumbing engineering, as well as acoustics and audiovisual design for the new 330,000 SF, multi-venue performing arts center. A grand opening ceremony was held on Thursday, November 6, 2014.

The Walt Disney Theater: Copyright Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts; Courtesy of Arup

Arup and Artec (now part of Arup) were selected in early 2008 and worked closely with Barton Myers Associates, and executive architects HKS Architects, Inc. and Baker Barrios Architects to design and detail the facilities. TLC Engineering for Architecture and BASE Consultants, both based in Orlando, also collaborated with Arup.

Arup brought an extensive background in world-class performing arts center design to the project; experience which the firm leveraged through peer reviews, skills networks, and a Best-Practice review process that brought together global leaders as advisors to the project. Arup's scope had a broad reach, working with the design team on diverse issues such as engineering design of the dramatic cantilevered roof, setting the basic shape of each theater, footfall and crowd vibration, designing quiet air conditioning systems, and setting the foam density of the theater chairs to control their acoustic properties.

The Dr. Phillips Center houses two main theaters: the 2,700-seat Walt Disney Theater for Broadway tours and other amplified shows, and the Alexis & Jim Pugh Theater, a 300-seat multi-purpose theater for smaller performances. A 1,700-seat acoustic theater for opera, classical music and ballet is fully designed and will be built as soon as funding is secured. Additional spaces include an outdoor performance plaza, large banquet room, lobby tiers and a donors' lounge. Backstage spaces include a rehearsal room, dressing rooms, educational spaces, classrooms and offices. Arup engineered a soaring cantilevered roof extending 85-feet across Magnolia Avenue that serves as both a canopy to shelter guests, as well as a welcoming arm to entice the community to come inside.  The end result of the comprehensive design reflects a 'whole experience' of a night at the theater.

"The introduction of this world-class performing arts center to downtown Orlando will greatly benefit our local community through its ability to attract the world's best artists, economically through its ability to create jobs and provide revenue to surrounding businesses, and socially through the educational opportunities and outreach programs we can provide," said Katherine Ramsberger, CEO and president of the Dr. Phillips Center for Performing Arts. "The technical expertise of Arup's design and engineering team in the fine art of performance center design was outstanding. Every consideration, from aesthetics, to vibration control, to acoustics, to sustainability and efficient building performance was explored, and the Dr. Phillips Center is destined to be a community and cultural icon because of it."

Arup's structural engineering team relied on cutting-edge structural analyses tools, including crowd vibration modeling and dynamic analysis, as well as wind aeroelastic simulation to optimize the structural design and create a quiet and vibration free environment. Building information modeling (BIM) was also used from the early conceptual design through construction documentation to fully integrate all structural, mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems, and provide seamless integration between the many offices, disciplines, and team members collaborating on the project. Throughout design and construction, sustainable design measures were taken to achieve LEED Silver certification.

"Arup's integrated and multidisciplinary consulting group has a long legacy of designing performing arts spaces where achieving a specifically defined range of acoustical criteria is essential to the success of the project. The Dr. Phillips Center for Performing Arts is a jewel in our crown of performing arts projects," said Bruce McKinlay, project director with Arup. "As one of the first major projects to open in the United States following the merger with Artec, we are grateful for the opportunity to showcase Arup's world-class acoustic design capabilities and provide a transformational building for the arts in Orlando."

Artec Consultants Inc. was fully integrated with Arup's Acoustics and Theater Design Consulting practice in 2013, bringing together two of the world's foremost performing arts consulting teams under one roof. The Dr. Phillips Center joins a family of other multi-venue performing arts centers in North America that Arup has completed, including: the Adrienne Arsht Center in Miami, Fla.; Kravis Center for the Performing Arts in West Palm Beach, Fla.; Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center in Tampa, Fla.; Lincoln Center in New York, N.Y.; New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark, N.J.; Kimmel Center in Philadelphia, Pa.; Epcor Centre for the Performing Arts in Calgary, Alberta, Canada; Place des Arts in Montreal, Quebec, Canada; Toronto Center for the Arts in Toronto, Ontario, Canada; Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Costa Mesa, Calif.; Tempe Centre for the Arts in Tempe, Ariz.; Fox Cities Performing Arts Center in Appleton, Wis.; and Four Rivers Center in Paducah, Ky.

The project team includes:

  • Owner: The Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts
  • Development Manager: Hines
  • Design Architect: Barton Myers Associates Inc.
  • Executive Architect: HKS Architects, Inc. and Baker Barrios Architects
  • Structural Engineering: Arup, TLC and BASE
  • MEP Engineering: Arup and TLC
  • Acoustics and Audiovisual Design and Planning: Arup
  • LEED Consultant: Green Building Services

About Arup
Arup is the creative force at the heart of many of the world's most prominent projects in the built environment and across industry. Its engineers and consultants deliver innovative projects across the world. Arup opened its first US office 25 years ago, and now employs 1,000 in the Americas. The firm was founded in 1946 with an enduring set of values that fosters a distinctive culture, intellectual independence and collaborative approach. The people at Arup are driven to find a better way to deliver better solutions for their clients. (

About the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts
The Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts is a non-profit 501(c)3 organization operating the new state-of-the-art performing arts center in downtown Orlando, Florida. With its opening in November 2014, the performing arts center launched its vision of Arts For Every Life® by being a gathering place for creativity and discovery; a vibrant urban destination where artists, audiences and students come to experience, explore and learn.  The two-block community destination features the 2,700-seat Walt Disney Theater, 300-seat Alexis & Jim Pugh Theater, Seneff Arts Plaza, School of Arts, the DeVos Family Room, and other event rental spaces.  Future expansion plans include a 1,700-seat Acoustical theater, rehearsal room and commercial development spaces.  The Dr. Phillips Center is a public-private collaboration with the City of Orlando, Orange County, the State of Florida and generous donors. For more information please visit



Arup, a multidisciplinary engineering and consulting firm with a reputation for delivering innovative and sustainable designs.


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