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Historic Art Deco theatre restored with glass by Vitro Architectural Glass

The Alberta Bair Theater in Billings, Montana, USA, is the sole performing arts centre in the Northern Rockies region with the capacity to present shows by major touring theatre companies and artists, and its role as a home for the theatre arts is nothing short of essential.

In 2022, this beloved theatre was carefully restored and expanded with accessibility upgrades, preservation efforts and a stunning “glass box” façade featuring Solarban® 70 glass (formerly Solarban® 70XL glass) from Vitro Architectural Glass, which helped earn the project a Metamorphosis Award from retrofit magazine for excellence in renovation.

The Alberta Bair Theater was originally opened in 1931 as the Fox Theater and was partially financed by the 20th Century Fox Corporation. As such, the 26,800 square foot, 1,390-seat theatre functioned as a venue for both film screenings and regional theatre performances. Designed by architect Robert C. Reamer, the original theatre boasted Art Deco detail throughout the building, such as crystal chandeliers, decorative stage elements and sumptuous dressing rooms. In fact, the Alberta Bair Theater was the last theatre featuring the Art Deco style to be built in the U.S. by 20th Century Fox.

Nearly a century later, architectural firm Cushing Terrell in Billings led the renovation and expansion efforts that restored the theatre to its former glory and ushered in a series of improvements to the original design that have transformed it into a more accessible venue for all.

On the building exterior, the envelope of the building has been pushed outward to provide additional space for ADA access, improved vertical circulation and an expanded lobby and box office area.

A second addition, a 4,800 square foot, two-story, glittering glass box façade, gives the theatre a clear curtain wall system that encourages a better visual connection to the theatre’s interior.

Architects at Cushing Terrell. selected Solarban® 70 Optigray® glass for this stunning addition, which has brought new life to the light grey, subtly moody façade of this historic theatre.

With its transparent, colour-neutral aesthetic and unprecedented solar control and visible light transmittance (VLT), Solarban® 70 glass strikes just the right balance between form and function. Due to its clarity, consistency and solar control performance, Solarban® 70 glass has become the most commonly specified triple-silver-coated glass in the entire industry, with more than 300 million square-feet shipped in the past 10 years.

When coupled with conventional clear glass in a one-inch insulating glass unit (IGU), Solarban® 70 glass outshines the performance of any other solar control low-e glass on the market today, boasting a solar heat gain coefficient (SHGC) of 0.27 and VLT of 64 percent. Additionally, Solarban® 70 glass can be combined in an IGU with any tinted glass from Vitro Architectural Glass.

In this case, Solarban® 70 glass was coupled with Optigray® glass from Vitro to accomplish a specific aesthetic. Optigray® glass is designed to eliminate the green cast typically found in conventional clear glass formulations and produces a warm, ultra-neutral, light-grey aesthetic that brings crispness to vision glazing.

Specially formulated to function as a substrate with solar control low-e coatings, Optigray® glass delivers advanced solar performance when paired with solar control low-e glasses such as Solarban® 70 glass. Optigray® glass produces light-to-solar gain (LSG) ratios of up to 1.96, with VLT between 29 percent and 50 percent, depending on which Solarban® glass is specified.

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