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Steppenwolf Theatre Campus Expansion

The 50,000 sf Steppenwolf Theatre Campus Expansion includes a new in-the-round theater and education center and is now named the Liz and Eric Lefkofsky Arts and Education Center.

The transformed Steppenwolf campus will change the way Chicagoans and visitors experience the company’s cutting-edge theater when in-person performances return in late 2021.

Steppenwolf’s Liz and Eric Lefkofsky Arts and Education Center is the largest new permanent cultural asset to open in the City of Chicago in 2021. The $54 million building project is part of Steppenwolf’s multi-phase $73 million campus expansion, and includes Steppenwolf’s first-ever dedicated education space, The Loft, encompassing the entire fourth floor of the new building.

The expansion will introduce new relationships with its patrons, neighborhood, and Chicago as a whole. Architecturally, the design is carefully stitched into its neighborhood context, recognizing the significance of its presence along Halsted Street, while respecting its neighbors.

At the heart of the center is an intimate and state-of-the-art 400-seat theater in the round, one of its kind in Chicago. The concept, based on Collision, that interaction between the actor and the audience serves to establish dynamic and intimate spatial relationships throughout the project.

The theater is only six rows deep, always placing the actor in an intimate relationship with the audience. No audience member will be more than 20 feet from the stage, blurring the lines of actor/audience relationships.

Other improvements include a dedicated education floor for the future of Chicago’s youth. Steppenwolf has always had a strong commitment to the social construct and neighborhoods across Chicago. Through its Young Adult Council and Teen Programs, the project took an Education-centric approach to its design by placing the Teens and the future youth of Chicago at the Center of design and in the most prominent spaces.

The program also includes a dynamic lobby space, Steppenwolf’s costume shop and other updated production amenities, as well as a wine bar and a sidewalk lounge, increasing the social gathering spaces where artists and audiences converge.

Key elements of the in-the-round theatre include a modular staging system that allows for designers and directors to control the architecture, adjust the capacity, and explore different stage footprints for a variety of audience relationships. Accessibility was at the forefront of the design, including 20 fully integrated wheelchair accessible locations (versus the six that are required by law), as well as an induction hearing loop and improved sight lines for performances featuring ASL Interpretation and Open Captioning.

24 Jan 22 | World-Architects
US Building of the Week: Steppenwolf Theatre Campus Expansion
Steppenwolf had been undertaking a search for an architect to translate their artistic vision and met with Gordon Gill in 2007 at Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture’s offices in Chicago... MORE

12 Jan 22 | The Architect's Newspaper
Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture’s expansion of the Steppenwolf Theatre brings the backstage to the house
Theaters... are places for architectural magic... MORE

15 Nov 21 | The Chicago Crusader
Expanded Steppenwolf campus a cultural nexus for Chicago New state-of-the-art theater and dedicated education center
Earlier this month, Steppenwolf Theatre Company, the nation’s premier ensemble theater company, opened its trailblazing new 50,000-square-foot Liz and Eric Lefkofsky Arts and Education Center... MORE

6 Nov 21 | Chicago Now
The Wolf Strikes again with Steppenwolf Theatre Company Liz and Eric Lefkofsky Arts and Education Center expansion
The monster that has attacked the world, Covid, an acute respiratory illness in humans caused by a coronavirus, caused theaters to go dark for nearly two years... MORE

4 Nov 21 | Architectural Record
Smith + Gill Architecture Expands the Steppenwolf Theater Campus in Chicago
Since its founding in 1974 by a group of high school students aspiring to be actors, Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theater has evolved from a scrappy incubator of local talent to an internationally acclaimed cultural powerhouse... MORE

3 Nov 21 | Newcity
Steppenwolf Debuts Lefkofsky Center
Steppenwolf has opened its new 50,000 square foot theater building and education center, the Liz and Eric Lefkofsky Arts and Education Center... MORE

2 Nov 21 | WTTW
Steppenwolf Theatre Returns After 20-Month Intermission, Dedicates New Wing
It was the longest intermission in Steppenwolf Theatre’s 46-year history. But the celebrated theater is coming back bigger than ever... MORE

31 Oct 21 | Chicago Sun-Times
Steppenwolf Theatre’s new Arts and Education Center is a ‘love letter to Chicago’
The $54-million Liz and Eric Lefkofsky Arts and Education Center will feature a wine bar, a teen loft area and a 400-seat in-the-round theater... MORE

21 Oct 21 | Chicago Tribune
Steppenwolf Theatre names its new theater and center after major donors
Steppenwolf Theatre Company announces Thursday that its new, in-the-round theater and education center will be named the Liz and Eric Lefkofsky Arts and Education Center.... MORE

5 Aug 21 | Third Coast Review
Dialogs: Architecture Collides With Theater in Steppenwolf Podcast, “Collision,” Featuring AS+GG’s Gordon Gill
Theater and architecture share a creative bond in this edition of Steppenwolf Theatre’s Half Hour podcast series... MORE

4 May 2021 | Block Club Chicago
Steppenwolf To Open New Theater Building, Education Center During 2021 Comeback Season
The building will feature a 400-seat round theater and a state-of-the-art education center. It's expected to open to audiences in November... MORE

2 Nov 20  | Chicago Tribune
Rising in a pandemic: Steppenwolf’s new theater campus is a $54 million bet on returning to normalcy
In March of last year, Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theatre officially announced its campus expansion: a new $54 million theater-in-the-round... MORE

5 mar 19 | Chicago Tribune
Steppenwolf Theatre, known for bold moves, plans a new $54M theater-in-the-round project on Halsted Street
In a development likely to reshape, and possibly reignite, the Halsted Street corridor in Lincoln Park and impact the fiscal and artistic fortunes of the Steppenwolf Theatre Company for years to come... MORE

5 mar 19 | Re Journal
Iconic Chicago institution Steppenwolf Theatre breaks ground on extensive expansion
Steppenwolf Theatre Company broke ground today on the next phase of its multi-year campus expansion, unveiling plans for a new state-of-the-art theater building. Located in Chicago’s Old Town neighborhood, the 50,000-square-foot building is slated to open in the summer of 2021... MORE

5 mar 19 | Curbed Chicago
Steppenwolf expands theater with dramatic, geometric design from Smith + Gill
The $54 million project will create new spaces to perform, educate, and socialize... MORE

Steppenwolf Theatre

General Contractor
Norcon Inc.

Theatre Consultant

Landscape Architect
Oslund and Associates

Bar Designer
FC Studio

Signage and Wayfinding
Studio Blue

Structural Engineering
Thornton Tomasetti

MEP Engineering
Environmental Systems Design

Civil Engineering

Lighting Design

Fire & Life Safety
Jensen Hughes

Cost Estimating


AIA Chicago, Lerch Bates People's Choice Award, Community and Cultural Category, Winner

Architizer A+Awards, Hall/Theater, Finalist

Chicago Athenaeum, American Architecture Award


Architect’s Newspaper, Best of Design, Editor’s Choice

AIA Illinois, Honor Award, Excellence in Interior Design

Architecture MasterPrize, Architectural Design / Cultural Architecture, Honorable Mention

Chicago Building Congress, Commercial Construction under $50M, Merit Award