Bengt Sjostrom Starlight Theatre

Setting Performance in Motion


Rockford / Illinois / USA


Studio Gang O'Donnell


Rock Valley College


Completed 2003

The design of the 135,000 sf Starlight Theatre maintains the tradition of open–air performances at Rock Valley College while offering new flexibility, allowing the theatre company to extend its season and guarantee shows even when it rains. Technologies typically employed to move roofs over massive stadiums were adapted to fit the scale and budget of its elegantly sculptural roof form, which opens like the petals of a flower in fair weather, providing both shelter and drama that the former stage lacked.

Beneath the roof, the central theatre space forms an unexpected vertical axis to the sky that enhances the audience’s pleasure of being outdoors. With the new building and expanded programming possibilities, Starlight has transformed itself into a popular regional destination and favorite summer venue for the community.


2005 Merit Award, United States Institute for Theatre Technology (USITT)

2004 Honor Award, Distinguished Building, AIA Chicago

2004 Scholarship Prize/Best Overall Design Award, Metal Construction Association (MCA)

2003 Gold Medal/President's Award, Association of Licensed Architects (ALA)

2003 Award of Honor, Society of American Registered Architects (SARA)

Selected Publications

2014 April, WU Magazine
"Essenza Interattiva"

2007 Nov, Ottagono
“Projetti 1: Starlight Theatre”

2007 Details in Contemporary Architecture (Princeton Architectural Press)

2004 Masterpieces of Chicago Architecture (Rizzoli)

2003 Winter, Architect’s Journal
“The show must go on”

2003 Nov, Blueprint
“Twinkle Twinkle Big Star”

2003 Oct, Architectural Record
“Poetry of Performance”

2003 Oct, Kunstzeitung
“Eisbären im Präriestaat”

2003 Sept 21, Chicago Sun-Times
“Chicago’s architectural revival is new stars’ chance to shine”

2003 July, The Fabricator
“When You Wish Upon a Star”

2003 June 16, Engineering News Record
“$1-Million ‘Kinetic Skylight’ is Showstopper in Illinois”

2003 June 15, Chicago Tribune
“Rockford, Racine projects show promise for Chicago designers”

2003 June 1, Rockford Register-Star
“A star is born”

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