Orchestra Hall renovation plans unveiled

Orchestra Hall renovation
An artist's rendering of a renovated Orchestra Hall.
Courtesy Minnesota Orchestra

The Minnesota Orchestra on Friday released designs for a $40 million dollar renovation and expansion of Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis.

The plans expand lobby space, and improve circulation of people in and out of the hall. The plans also include new escalators, and a simplified floor plan on the halls separate levels.

Orchestra President and CEO Michael Henson said the project will make it easier to move through the building.

"And we wanted to achieve all this with a timeless design, one that wouldn't fall out of fashion in a decade, that had a substance and a significance to stand the test of time," Henson said.

Architect Marianne McKenna of the Toronto-based firm KPMB said a central part of the design is a new space on the west of the building called 'the city room'.

"We see this as a place for many different kind of events," McKenna said. "There be will the ability to set up bars, but everything will be movable so that it will be very much a flexible space."

That flexibility will extend throughout the expanded area, which will allow for the possibility of musical performances in the foyer and other spots.

Other possibilities being discussed include some sort of projection on the walls showing what is happening inside the building.

The design also features large windows to display the Minneapolis skyline from the inside, and to make the building look more welcoming from the outside.

KPMB Architect Bruce Kuwabara said during the development of the plan his team was struck by the quality of the hall's original 1974 design. He said the hall has served the Orchestra and the city well, and has an international reputation for its acoustics. However, he said the city has changed around it, and that necessitates this change now.

"It's a very fine balance between the kind of statement that this is a serious place for music in the world, but it is also very open and welcoming to anyone," he said. "Because I think that's really the future of cities, of culture."

The redesign adds escalators, and simplifies the circulation patterns of concert-goers both through the foyer, and up to the various levels of the hall. The renovation will also include some renovations to the backstage areas and the auditorium, although orchestra officials stress every care will be taken to avoid any change in the halls acoustics.

The hall will close for a year during the construction, and negotiations are underway with other venues where the orchestra would perform during that period. The orchestra has raised $38 million for the project which is to be finished by 2013.

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