Case Study

In renovating the Eames IMAX Theater, NBBJ brought the latest in IMAX infrastructure and digital technology to Seattle, creating a premier presentation auditorium that respects the significance of the historic site and its original architects.

The Pacific Science Center theater, originally designed by Charles and Ray Eames for the 1962 World’s Fair, had aged badly. In addition to normal wear and tear, the character-defining feature of the space, the Eames’ 360° “Cyclorama” screen, made for poor acoustics due to its shape. Yet a tight budget and newly-awarded landmark status made significant interventions unfeasible.

Accordingly, the design team adopted a “light touch” philosophy to guide the renovation. All changes took place within the landmarked concrete shell, including dramatic new lighting, upgraded finishes, and the installation of an elegant, fabric-covered baffle system that renders the wall acoustically invisible. Before the renovation, it was difficult to carry a conversation in the space; now, one can hear a pin drop.

Projector Transport Unit

The terms of the IMAX upgrade required the theater to install a state-of-the-art 3D digital projection system, but this threatened to render four decades of classic 2D IMAX films unusable. In response, the NBBJ team designed the first-ever Projector Transport Unit, which can project 2D analog and 3D digital films from the same booth: with the push of a button, a single operator can reposition equipment weighing as much as a car to a precision within 1/10,000 of an inch. This system was so successful that IMAX is seeking to adopt it in other theaters with large libraries of legacy films.

“ This theater strengthens our capacity to be a place that showcases science in multiple ways, inviting people of all ages and stages of life to feed their intellectual curiosity about how our world — and universe — works. ”

Bryce Seidl CEO and President, Pacific Science Center