Northwestern University’s new music and communications building was challenged to create a “village-like” setting that connected the university’s arts-oriented buildings on the campus, including the Pick-Staiger Concert Hall and the Regenstein Hall of Music. Sited on a prime parcel fronting Lake Michigan and a new arts lawn, the building serves as a signature facility with materials that remain contextual with the surrounding environment. The initial declaration from the university was to create a new music school that would be instantly recognized from the air and would create a dramatic architectural statement that establishes the importance of the School of Music.
The university's goal was to provide a world-class facility that would attract students with the highest talent and provide them with the opportunity to realize their potential. The building was designed to create a dramatic and inviting sense of public arrival with an inspiring spatial entry form. The unique Z-shaped plan wraps around the existing Regenstein building, with the glass-enclosed atrium in the middle. The atrium serves as the primary gathering space and offers clear views of the lake. Certified LEED-NC Gold, the building offers a variety of sustainable initiatives, including a double-skin facade and a greywater system. The primary architectural concept for the building was to express the importance of the teaching and practice facilities, as well as the three performance venues, which comprise the choral, opera and main recital halls. The goal of the project was to create a building that would inspire and prepare students for the opportunity to perform on a world stage.
All spaces met rigorous acoustical requirements, including the opera rehearsal room, choral recital and the main 400-seat recital hall. The majority of the façade consists of a glass curtain wall in order to maximize daylight and optimize views. Additionally, the acoustically sensitive rooms incorporate an inner-cavity glass wall to help isolate the acoustics. The crown jewel of the building is the main recital hall, which utilizes a 40-foot-high double-skin glass wall at the back of the performance stage. This glass wall was instrumental in the original concept and was designed to allow for the spectacular views of Lake Michigan and the Chicago skyline, as well as support the highly sensitive acoustic performance requirements of a concert hall. Understanding that daylight is not always preferred, the architects incorporated solar/blackout shades within the accessible cavity in order to avoid interference with the acoustics of the hall. The inner glass wall also tilts inward in order to prevent an echo. Horizontal woven-wood panels on the other three sides further absorb reflections while lending a feeling of warmth. The entire room works in harmony to provide a dramatic visual and acoustical setting for world-class performances of all kinds.
Goettsch Partners (GP) is an architecture firm with a global perspective. Based in Chicago, with additional offices in Shanghai and Abu Dhabi, the firm brings a singular approach to design that combines seasoned experience with a passion for exploration and innovation. Completed projects span five continents and represent a diverse range of types and sizes. Every project design begins with multiple concepts that are evaluated for intrinsic value, constructability and environmental impact. GP projects share a consistent visual language of bold clarity that celebrates highly crafted technical solutions delivering optimal performance.