Winner: Rebirth Project of the Year 2018 and Winner: Architecture Project of the Year 2018. The Storefront Theater provides a small Nebraska town with a unique open-air event space.
Artist Matthew Mazzotta installed the theatre as a social initiative to reinvigorate the neglected main street in Lyons. The 100-seat theatre, which flips down from an unassuming abandoned freestanding storefront, can be hidden away and disguised at part of the streetscape when not in use.
"Both the seats and the screen retract and disappear when not in use, giving the impression that there is nothing unusual in this town, leaving only word-of-mouth accounts for inquiring visitors," said the artist.
The aim of project, at the intersection of community and sustainability in the built environment, is to help bring life back to downtown Lyons. With a population of 851, and like many other small towns in the US, its main street has suffered decline in recent years.
"During these discussions, many community members reveal fond memories of a once-thriving downtown and express a strong desire to see downtown become the centre of community life once again," Mazzotta said. Locals donated money and volunteered their time to help to construct the theatre.
Hydraulic cylinders on either side push down the awning and false frontage over the sidewalk, revealing stepped seats. A screen can be wheeled in front by a tractor, then driven away again when necessary. Since the venue was installed, it has hosted events including movie screenings, video-game nights and music concerts.
Judges comments: "Addresses the challenges and opportunities of the changing small town high street in a joyful, witty and communal way. Whilst in itself it’s a small architecture gesture, it changes the character of the whole high street in a meaningful way. It proves that even a simple facade can be as impactful as a big and expensive architectural gesture."