Orchestra Hall reimagined:
An interview with
the architect
First of all, why was the Orchestra Hall
renovation undertaken?
The Hall’s auditorium was built to last, but
not its surrounding lobby—that was to have been replaced
about 15 years after the building opened in 1974. As time
passed, not only did many parts of the physical building
sorely need upgrading—the aging heating system, the upper-
tier windows that leaked, and so on—but it became clear
that other key elements were lacking or not up to code:
accessibility for individuals with disabilities, energy efficiency
and, simply put, room for audience members to move
around the Hall comfortably and efficiently. The design
reflects our aim to accommodate all these things and more.
You’ve described this as harmonizing the new
with the old.
Yes, we wanted to preserve the auditorium
as the iconic element of the original design, and, of
course, maintain its superb acoustics. We juxtaposed a
light, transparent “wrapper” against the Hall’s familiar,
distinctively angled red brick shoebox, so the angle and
rounded corners remain quite prominent. This open
aesthetic also points to the legacy of Minneapolis’
modernist downtown buildings and public spaces, which
were designed by some of the 20th century’s most prominent
architects, something Twin Citians should be very proud of.
And connecting with the rest of downtown
Orchestra Hall has always been the southern
anchor to the city’s downtown district, and with the
transparency of the new external walls, there can be more of
a visual exchange—as audience members inside the building
take in dramatic views of the skyline, and people outside can
see activity within the building. Now there’s also a tree-lined
streetscape, with a generously scaled sidewalk connecting
Nicollet Mall to Marquette Avenue, which reinforces
Minneapolis’ international reputation as a walkable city and
that of the Hall as an open, welcoming destination.
Throughout, you placed great emphasis on the
patron experience.
Yes, this expansion adds 21,500 square feet of
public space, more than doubling the floor area for each
audience member. All the staircases and walkways have
been reconfigured for greater convenience; new elevators are
Orchestra Hall has a new look, the result of a
major renovation project that took place from
mid-June 2012 to the end of August 2013 and
included changes both grand and subtle. We
invited the lead architect—
Marianne McKenna
Toronto’s KPMB Architects—
to talk about the philosophy
and the practical
considerations that
guided the project.
Marianne McKenna of
KPMB Architects, partner-
in-charge of the Orchestra
Hall renovation project.
Photo: Ann Marsden
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