High School for the Performing and Visual Arts

Rendering of the front of the High School for the Performing and Visual Arts in Houston Texas

Cardno provided structural engineering services for this five-story school situated in the heart of downtown Houston, near the Theatre District. As the district’s only magnet high school for the arts, the 168,000 sf facility houses 750 students in dedicated performance and studio spaces.

Program elements include a 200-seat mini-theater, 200-seat black box theater, 150-seat recital hall, recording studio, an outdoor dining area, several galleries, and a rooftop garden and outdoor art studio.

Interior features include extra-wide staircases, double-height ceilings and ample internal glass. Performance spaces are all surrounded by 12-inch CMU blocks for sound attenuation.

Most spaces also have special requirements reflected in the structural design, such as isolated floors for vibration control and clear height spans for overhead rigging. 

The centerpiece is a two-level, 850-seat main theater with a balcony. The theatre spans the entire height of the building, with the orchestra pit on the basement level and the fly lofts reaching up to the roof level.

The varying height requirements of interior spaces throughout the school are addressed with a cast-in-place concrete pan joist structural system. Since the floor plans on the different levels are not consistent, the structural system contains few repetitive elements. 

Two levels of underground parking accommodate staff and students. The tight site offers no other surface parking. The bus drop off is incorporated as a double-height porte cochere on one edge of the building. The finished first level is almost three feet above the sidewalk elevation to allow proper drainage.