E. Claire Raley Studios for the Performing Arts

Sacramento, CA

An existing URM building in need of retrofit. A tight budget. An ambitious vision for a space for the arts that required 60 foot clear spans in a structure with existing columns on a 16 foot by 26 foot grid. These were the seemingly insurmountable challenges when Buehler was hired for the project. The E. Claire Raley Studios for the Performing Arts serves as the instructional home for the Sacramento Ballet and  required open studio spaces to effectively teach the next generation of dancers. The solution? Utilizing exposed post tensioning cables to maximize the use of existing concrete structural members allowed the removal of all 12 interior concrete columns while replacing them with only 4 new steel columns. Architecturally, the bright red tendons were embraced and left exposed to create a unique ceiling feature that enhances the artistic function of the building. We are honored to have received the American Institute of Architects Central Valley chapter Divine Detail Award for our structural solution!

Quick Facts

  • Size: 49,592 SF
  • Architect: Dreyfuss + Blackford Architecture
  • The new system only increased the overall structural system depth from 20 inches to 22½ inches
  • The bright red sheathing on the post-tensioned strands is very similar to the neck on a guitar with the new concrete support beams that are tucked into the existing hallway structure mimicking the frets
  • Construction Cost: $5,200,000
  • Contractor: Rudolph and Sletten
  • 62 foot long steel girders were slipped into the building laterally through small holes created in the existing roof


  • 2017 AIA Central Valley - Divine Detail Award
  • 2017 California Presentation Foundation - Rehabilitation Design Award
  • 2017 AIA Central Valley - Honor Award
  • 2017 SEAOCC Excellence in Structural Engineering Awards - Award of Excellence (Historic Preservation)
  • 2016 Sacramento Business Journal Best Real Estate Projects - Best Public/Private Partnership 

Photo credit: Chip Allen Architectural Photography