County Theater Ideas Competition:
Imagining the New Addition to the County

THE WINNERS We are excited to announce and share the winners of our Ideas Competition. The competition produced 189 submissions of plans, drawings, layouts, and ideas for the County Theater's planned expansion. Our esteemed jury selected five entries for the top prizes and honorable mention.

IDEAS, ONLY! THIS IS JUST THE FIRST STEP We have not "picked" the design of the building or our architect. Instead, this process is the starting point for gathering ideas and concepts for how to best utilize this space, both as an addition to the County and as a resource for the Doylestown community. This is the start of a conversation.

All of the designs have helped inform the design process and have opened up many doors to new possibilities about what our new addition can and will be.

We will be scheduling public meetings to discuss this process and to get feedback and encouragement about the function and design of the space.

ABOUT THE COMPETITION This competition solicited ideas for a new addition to the historic 1938 County Theater in Doylestown, Pennsylvania.

The County Theater, Inc. has recently acquired the property adjacent to the theater (formerly "Poor Richards") with the plan to use this new property to expand the theater. The proposed plan is to add a third movie auditorium, an expanded lobby and concession stand, a multi-purpose community and events room, and an enhanced pedestrian experience.

The purpose of the competition was to start the design and brainstorming process and generate creative ideas for the façade, lobby, and pedestrian area. (For the purpose of this exercise, we assumed a clean slate, i.e., that the current Poor Richards building will be torn down.)

DESIGN  CONSIDERATIONS In proposing a plan for our expansion, participants were asked to address the following design considerations:

1. Harmonize with the Historic Theater. The County Theater is an iconic art deco building built in 1938. How can the addition be designed so that it looks like it is part of a single theater complex?

2. Consider the context of Doylestown. The County Theater serves as an anchor for downtown Doylestown. This addition/expansion will be one of the few new buildings built in the downtown in the last 50 years. How should the new exterior respond to this historical and architectural context? Or should it not attempt to do so?

3. Address how the addition fits functionally with the historic theater. We assume that patrons will still enter through the front doors of the original theater and will then flow out to the addition's new expanded lobby space. Will the addition have its own separate entrance or will its front doors only be exits? Or will things be turned around?

4. Address the Pedestrian Experience. Doylestown sidewalks are mostly narrow, but the proposed expansion presents an opportunity to increase the sidewalk width for pedestrian or other usage. How can this project best enhance the pedestrian experience along State Street?

JURY This was a blind competition and the names and affiliations were not shared with the jury until after the selections process was completed. The jury consisted of three respected professionals:

David Hollenberg is University Architect at the University of Pennsylvania and is responsible for oversight of the design of the physical development and preservation of the campus. He has a career history of design and preservation, having previously worked for the National Park Service and John Milner Associates.

Marty Moss-Coane is host and executive producer of WHYY's Radio Times, one of the most respected interview programs in radio. Her interests and expertise are wide-ranging and include insightful interviews of artists and arts professionals. She lives in Newtown and is a long-time member of the County Theater.

Lynn Taylor is an esteemed local architect, who resided in Doylestown during his entire career. He has been particularly recognized for his design of expansions of the James A. Michener Art Museum in Doylestown. He was the President of the County Theater when it purchased its theater building and when it accomplished its first major restoration in 1996.

JURY COMMENTS In line with the design considerations, the jury unanimously highlighted designs that preserved the primacy of the County Theater and did not upstage the classic 1938 façade. Designs that deferred and were respectful to the current structure got the most positive responses. Additionally, the jury singled out designs that did not mimic the County's deco façade or attempt to recreate a faux historic character. An enhanced pedestrian experience, including some cover for inclement weather, and an understanding of the scale of State Street and the surrounding properties were also factored into the decision.


Each of the winning presentations displayed below consist of multiple slides which include a street view, layout, and project description. Feel free to click through each to view all the slides and expand for a larger view.


Bethany Mahre and Jonathan Parker
New York City, NY

Bethany Mahre and Jonathan Parker are practicing architects in New York City, originally from Atlanta, GA and Baltimore, MD. They studied architecture at the Georgia Institute of Technology and received their master's degrees from Washington University in St. Louis.

Bethany and Jonathan are avid movie-goers and regard cinemas as not only a place for viewing films, but for sharing an experience with the community -- Jonathan grew up making regular visits to his local single-screen theater. They believe architecture should offer something beyond aesthetics and programmatic solutions, making people more actively aware of their surroundings. The proposal hopes to achieve this by creating a facade that draws passersby to the cinema while providing a space for both formal and informal gatherings.


Li Hao,   Arthur Jonathan Loree,   Adelaide McInnis
Philadelphia, PA

Li Hao is a principal of MIMOHAUS and an adjunct professor with Philadelphia University's College of Architecture and the Built Environment. Jonathan and Adelaide are both design interns at MIMOHAUS and third year architecture students of PhilaU.

MIMOHAUS is a Philadelphia-based architectural design team focused on creating compelling spaces based on extensive analysis of context, program, materials and human experience. Their work includes residential, commercial and institutional spaces in the greater Philadelphia region.

Inspiration: "We visited the County Theater before we began our design. Through a short chat with the staff on duty, we were inspired by his extensive knowledge of and profound pride in the rich history of Doylestown. This drove us to finding ways to reinvigorate the historic Poor Richards' building instead of tearing it down and building anew. We believe that the most powerful design is capable of retaining memories in addition to inspiring new meanings. Therefore we designed the addition to be an active dialogue amongst the Art-deco facade, the historic masonry core, and a renewed theater going-experience."


Barbara Hillier, AIA
Studio Hillier
Princeton, NJ

Barbara Hillier is a Principal and co-founder of Studio Hillier, a research-based, architecture and urbanism practice in Princeton, New Jersey. Her career in architecture was cultivated in the Princeton-based firm of Hillier Architecture, where she was both life partner and career partner with founder J. Robert Hillier, FAIA.

Ms. Hillier opened and led the firm's Philadelphia office for eleven years, which helped build the firm's national reputation. The success of the Philadelphia office was followed by rapid expansion with offices in New York City, Washington, DC., Dallas, and London; and eventually to Dubai and Shanghai.

Ms. Hillier holds a Master of Architecture Degree from Princeton University, a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Arcadia University, and a Bachelor of Science in Psychology from Temple University. She is the recipient of many honors and awards, most recently for the Irving Convention Center at Las Colinas and for the BD Campus Center, receiving the distinguished Chicago Athenaeum American Architecture Award.

Barbara shares the joy of living along the canal in Solebury Township, Bucks County, PA.

Studio Hillier Design Team: Felix N. Heidgen, LEED AP; Sara N. Shonk, AIA, LEED, AP BD+C; Jacek Mus, AIA; Benjamin Pollak


Charles J. Maira, AIA, LEED AP
ikon.5 architects
Princeton, NJ

Charlie Maira is a principal and the director of architectural technology for ikon.5 architects. Charlie's unique ability to synthesize design concepts with the highest level of technical proficiency has helped catapult ikon.5 architects into a leadership position in the design community, contributing to the firm earning 75 design awards and its being ranked in Architect magazine's Arch 50 as one of the top ten design firms in the country five years in a row. ikon.5 architects is a broad-based practice in architecture, planning, landscape and interior design.

Charlie received a Bachelor of Architecture at the Boston Architectural Center.

Ikon.5's idea for the County Theatre Expansion is a modern expansion that ennobles a much loved historic icon while enhancing its value to the community. Inside, the new and existing theatre buildings are linked by a shared lobby that increases public gathering space and the opportunity for meeting other theatregoers. Outside, the building is intended as a neutral, reflective backdrop to complement rather than compete with the 1938 Art Deco Building. A new, second entrance is provided to further activate the street. By day its glazed stepped façade will reflect the streetscape around it. By night the façade is wholly transparent exposing its activities and its energy to passersby.


Andy Sniderman
Wynnewood, PA

Andy Sniderman is a registered architect living in Wynnewood, PA with his wife and twin boys. Andy works at Ballinger in Philadelphia, with previous work experience at Ennead Architects and John G. Waite Associates Architects in New York City. He has over 16 years of experience as a project architect working on academic, cultural, and institutional buildings, including at Stanford University, Indiana University, and American University. Andy graduated from the University of Cincinnati where his senior thesis project was a movie theater.


View all 189 entries here.

WE WANT YOUR FEEDBACK Please share your comments with us. What are your comments on the jury-selected ideas? Which of the other design entries did you like? As we continue our design and brainstorming process, what are the most important aspects that you think we should factor in to the project?

Remember, this was an IDEAS competition to start a conversation. These are not the proposed designs of the County Theater. As we proceed forward with this process, we will have many meetings and other opportunities for our members and the community to give us feedback and suggestions about what this addition should look like and how it should function. Much more to come - nothing has yet been considered, decided, or proposed.

COMMENT ON THESE "IDEAS" (Remember nothing has been chosen or decided.) Share your constructive comments with us below or via email at