The Santa Fe Opera

The Sante Fe Opera was faced with the need to expand, but when it came time to do so the work had to be done piecemeal, with construction taking place between seasons. Juan Matiz and his firm, MAD, master planned and designed the complex expansion, which consists of numerous public spaces as well as back-of-house facilities. The resulting project sensitively melds with the existing Opera as well as its Santa Fe, New Mexico context. Matiz answered a few questions about the project.
Phase Two
What were the circumstances of receiving the commission for this project?
The Santa Fe Opera retained MAD in 2013 to develop a master plan for the expansion of this world-renowned opera facility as a result of the principal’s prior experience at the Opera. During his tenure at Polshek Partnership, Juan Matiz was responsible for a new rehearsal hall that was designed in 1999 and built adjacent to the Crosby Theater. After founding the current firm with his partner Sara, in 2003 they were asked to design a dining pavilion that was constructed in the nearby administration wing of the site, and this became his second opportunity to work in New Mexico.

Many years later the progressive Opera leadership thought that this important commission could be a great opportunity for a young inspired architect and therefore contacted Juan to see if there was any interest. Needless to say, it was like a dream come true, and after securing the NM license and selecting a great team of consultants, everyone got to work on the plans and strategic phasing that needed to be skillfully outlined. This was critical so that the summer opera seasons could go undisturbed while the various project areas were constructed.
Phase Two
Phase Two
Can you provide an overview of the project and describe the main ideas and inspirations that influenced the design of the building?
The complete project was executed in between the 2014, 2015 and 2016 opera seasons, since the work comprised extensive structural work (including stage wings), expansions and enhancement of amenity spaces for employees and all production areas. These include expansive open-air concession, dining, and lounge areas, and the renovation of 38,000 square feet of indoor set and costume production and storage facilities, along with dressing rooms, music practice rooms, and staff offices.

Phase One expanded the entry plaza with a new Twomey Dining Terrace, as well as reconfiguring and expanding the adjacent Artistic Support building. New buildings were introduced to accommodate expanded program, and the architecture sensitively follows the aesthetic of the existing Crosby Theatre. A new grey stucco wall plane along the landscaped entry delineates the expanded entry building, while unifying the upper and lower levels of the Twomey Terrace. Volumes are carefully proportioned and detailed retaining the contemporary character of the Opera grounds.
Phase One
Phase One
New redwood-clad concession areas are designed to fit into sloped site conditions at the periphery of the Theatre. Public amenities are greatly improved with new restroom facilities and additional plaza gathering areas enhancing the Opera experience.

At the rear of the Opera house, the dressing rooms and costume shop facilities were increased by over 11,000 square feet on three levels.  Music practice rooms and a series of highly technical support spaces now efficiently connect “back of house” activities with the widened stage wing and new lift. A new elevated deck floats along the edge of the sloping site allowing complex functions to occur outside while adding valuable interior space to the performer’s areas.
Phase One
Phase One
Phase Two renovated and expanded the newly named Poole Production Center by 12,000 square feet to a new 25,000-square-foot complex that expanded toward the north. Portions of its roofs created new outdoor plaza spaces for opera guests to gather pre-performance and during intermission. The production center includes multiple fabrication shops with complex state of the art mechanical systems, and greatly improved stage wing level spaces for backstage management activities.
Phase Two
Phase Two
The new three story Wyncote Opera Club was designed to provide 8,500 square feet of open lounge spaces and concessions, while introducing an elevator and bridge access to the Theater’s balcony. The building is carefully designed to sit along the main access road and completes the main public façade of the Crosby Theater. The simple geometry of the stucco wall surfaces visually tie the buildings together.  Audience amenities are greatly expanded with new restroom facilities and additional plaza gathering areas along the lower level. A grey wall carefully hides an outdoor staircase and frames the plaza edge as it meets the new Opera Club. Openings in the floating grey wall provide a framed landscape from interior vantage points and stair users are able to enjoy the connection between floors.

Acoustical strategies were strategically implemented with specialty ceilings, absorbent wall surfaces and operable shading devices so that the theater could benefit from the Club's scale and location. Lighting and finish materials were sensitively introduced in order to treat interior and exterior areas with elegance, while considering the New Mexico climate and the open nature of portions of the building.  
Phase Two
Phase Two
How does the design respond to the unique qualities of the site?
The primary drivers for the design of the buildings were threefold. Firstly, the dramatic setting of the site between the Sangre de Cristo Mountains to the west and the Jemez Mountains to the east, along with the unique open-air nature of many of the amenity spaces, suggested a subtle approach, framing and highlighting the landscape while not distracting from or dominating the context and views. Secondly, as an expansion of an existing facility, the architectural language responds to the existing theater and the existing ancillary structures with their updated take on contextual, environmentally sensitive adobe-style construction, which also considers the local climate. Thirdly, the visual and acoustic effects of the new spaces and equipment needed to be minimally perceptible from the 2,128 person open-air opera seating area. All mechanical equipment was pushed out of audience sightlines, and acoustically absorbent stucco and ceiling surfaces were strategically deployed to minimize distorted reflection of sound from performances as well as intrusion of sounds from nearby roadways.
Phase Two
Phase One
How did the project change between the initial design stage and the completion of the building?
When developing the master plan, several volumetric limitations were evident as a result of theater sightlines or site boundaries. Even though the site appears to provide expansive open space, there were quite a few sensitive visual datums that needed to be respected or improved. Since The Santa Fe Opera values its property's elegance and architectural character, the 28,000 square feet of additional areas needed to be very carefully introduced by MAD. The new club which needed to physically connect to the existing theater became one story taller than its predecessor and needed to carefully introduce rooflines.

Email interview conducted by John Hill.
Phase One
Phase Two
The Santa Fe Opera
Santa Fe, New Mexico

The Santa Fe Opera

Matiz Architecture & Design
New York, NY

Design Principal
Juan C. Matiz AIA

Project Managers
Lee Kreiner RA (Phase One), Adam Meredith AIA (Phase Two)

Project Team
Sloan Springer RA , Aalhad Pande AIA , Marlene Mendez, Michael Campbell

Structural Engineer
Hands Engineering

MEP/FP Engineer
M&E Engineering

Civil Engineer
Design Enginuity

Acoustical Consultant
Kirkegaard Associates

Bradbury Stamm Construction

Envelope Consultant
Armstrong Group

Owner Representative
Harris Consultants

Acoustical Ceiling Panels
Rockfon Planostile, Armstrong 2x2 ceiling systems

Silestone, Wilsonart

Dimming Systems
ETC Unison Paradigm 


Music Practice Rooms

Sherwin Williams

Carlisle, Johns Manville

Sound Absorptive Plaster
Pyrok Acoustement 40 

Building Areas
31,000 sf (Phase One)
46,500 sf (Phase Two)


Matiz Architecture & Design