Douglas Stebbins
 In Memoriam
It is with great sadness that we share the news that our friend and colleague Douglas Stebbins died on November 4, 2013, surrounded by his family at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital in New York, after a long struggle with liver disease.

A creative powerhouse in FDA's planning department for 19 years, Douglas made an enormous contribution to the field of theatre planning and design. His deep and immediately evident care for the nuances that differentiate a good theatre from an extraordinary theatre rubbed off not only on his FDA family, but also on the architects, acousticians and clients he worked with throughout his career. His brilliant mind and diligent hand touched literally hundreds of theatres, opera houses, concert halls and performing arts centers around the world. Each one of them carries a piece of his legacy, and each one is better for having met Douglas.

If his name had made the news every time his work did, a simple Google search for the name "Douglas" might put him ahead of the famous Michael. He was right to be effusive about the new Mariinsky II Opera House, which opened in St. Petersburg, Russia early this year, and whose audience chamber and sightlines won rave reviews. A coup that the project was built at all, it was in great measure through Douglas's tireless collaboration with Josh that the hall that stands today boasts impeccable views of the stage and unmatched audience comfort. Douglas loved the small, near-forgotten theatres, too. He would often call our attention to funky spaces we should visit on our travels, and he took a special interest in giving his effort to small renovations like the nonprofit Atlantic Theatre Company's Linda Gross Theatre, built elegantly into an old church. When we toured the space on opening night, he showed off each detail with as much pride as he would the great hall at the Mariinsky.

Douglas had an astounding mind for cataloging and research. We are convinced that he found a way to use a higher percentage of his brain's grey matter than the rest of us can. Each time he returned from a trip, his desk would be piled high with books from the theatres he visited. They didn't just become coasters like they would in most people's houses; he read all of them. If there was an urgent request to make a list of comparables for a space so specific that one couldn't imagine a comparable existing - say, a Cantonese opera house that transforms into a water theatre for acrobatic dolphins - Douglas would chime in with a dozen examples. We often joked that he knew every single building code by heart, from Russia's tome (ominously called the "SNiP") to the IBC to the quirky South Korean standard code book. We stopped telling those jokes because they weren't funny anymore - they were simply true. We relied on his information because it ran through a better filter than what we could find on the Internet or anywhere else, plus it came with a slice of his inimitable attitude, about which one longtime colleague commented: "It wasn't until Douglas mocked me mercilessly that I knew he cared about me." In that way, some of his interactions were perfect juxtapositions. He could be seen in a conference room yelling loudly and waving his hands violently over a drawing, with all the others gathering around and nodding quietly and gravely because they knew he was teaching them something valuable.

Douglas was a collector and an exuberant sharer. He had seen 11 different productions of Carmen, and he'd excitedly invite you to sit in the orchestra with him at a new Met production to make it a dozen. He had one of every Apple product, and when a new one came out, he'd give you an "indefinite loan" on the older model. In a way, he collected theatres, too. The rooms he contributed to were his pride and joy; he doted on them. If he were not guaranteed to always have an iPad nearby, we imagine he would carry photos of his theatres around in his wallet the way others do portraits of their children. So, over the coming days, we at FDA are compiling a "theatre family photo album" for Douglas, a copy of which we will keep at the office for those who wish to flip through it when they visit.

We imagine he'd even appreciate a note or a napkin sketch of your favorite theatre slipped in - as long as it has the right number of wheelchair positions.

If you'd like to share stories, memories, photos or other thoughts about Douglas, please join us here: