Orchestra Hall, 1111 Nicollet Mall, Minneapolis, Minnesota

From Placeography

Jump to: navigation, search
Edit with form

Orchestra Hall

Address: 1111 Nicollet Mall
Neighborhood/s: Downtown, Minneapolis, Minnesota
Minneapolis, Minnesota
Hennepin County, Minnesota
State/province: Minnesota
Country: United States
Year built: 1974
Primary Style: Modern
Historic Function: Auditorium/music facility
Current Function: Auditorium/music facility
Architect or source of design: Hardy, Holzman, Pfeiffer Associates
Notes: renovated, Hardy, Holzman Pfeiffer Associates, 1997

Downtown Minneapolis Hennepin County

Orchestra Hall, 1111 Nicollet Mall, Minneapolis, Minnesota
(44.972903° N, 93.27563° WLatitude: 44°58′22.451″N
Longitude: 93°16′32.268″W

Building Profile

The Minnesota Orchestra Hall is home to the Minnesota Orchestra, one of the major symphony orchestra in the nation. It was built in 1974 and located in downtown Minneapolis, MN. The 92,283 square feet building cost $7.2 million to construct but the entire development process of the building cost $13.5 million. The Minnesota Orchestra Hall was designed by the architects and associate architects of Hamel, Green and Abrahamson (HGA) and Hardy, Holyman, Pfeiffer Associates. Dr. Cyril M. Harris, the acoustical consultant, together with the architects designed the building with the intention that it creates a second to none acoustical experience for the audience.



Prior to the construction of the Orchestra Hall, the Minnesota Orchestra was one of the few major symphony orchestras that did not have a designated concert hall to serve its audience. The Minnesota Orchestra was professionally organized by two men who were distressed about their volunteer musicians leaving for paid engagements elsewhere. The first concert was held at the International Auditorium on November 5th, 1903.[1] For the next two years, the Minnesota Orchestra played in various churches due to the lack of an established building for the orchestra. In 1905, Northwestern National Life allowed Minnesota Orchestra to perform at Lyceum Theatre for about 25 years; however, the Minnesota Orchestra still could not call the theatre their own.

Without a concert hall, the Minnesota Orchestra continued hosting concerts at various performance halls including the University of Minnesota Northrop and the College of Saint Catherine O'Shaughnessy Auditorium. The major issue associated with facilities like Northrop was that the buildings were not originally designed for acoustical performance. The inadequacy of the facilities made the musicians play two styles, loud and louder.[1] Facilities like Northrop served as a general-purpose auditorium, thus, lacking the acute acoustical qualities that a symphony orchestra needed. A concert hall is an orchestra's sound box and without a good one, an orchestra may perform well, but people will never know it.[1] The poor quality of the sound in such facilities limits the Minnesota Orchestra to perform at its best, given that it is currently one of the top tier symphony orchestra. The poor acoustical sound was expressed by Clifford Biggs, an associate principal bass, "We really couldn't hear ourselves, and neither could the audience.[1]"

In addition to the poor acoustical quality of the auditorium, the Minnesota Orchestra had to share Northrop with the university band rehearsals and other musical and entertainment productions. As a result, scheduling practices and concerts was a challenging task.[1] Moreover, sharing spaces further complicates the situation when accommodations for lockers, dressing rooms and instrument storage were not met. Collectively, all the challenges the Minnesota Orchestra had to deal with using facilities like Northrop hindered their ability to perform well. Thus, it caused many potential subscribers to be discouraged in attending events. Consequently, the problem resulted in loss of revenue as wells as weakened their status.

There were two solutions that the Minnesota Orchestra could be implement in solving the problems at hand. One option was to renovate an existing building to meet the needs of their needs. Second, the Minnesota Orchestra could invest in building a new facility. The Association's Board of Directors for the Minnesota Orchestra Hall thought that it would be in their best interest to build a new facility instead of spending 3 to 4 million dollars, at the time, towards renovating the Northrop Auditorium. At one point, the Minnesota Orchestra was planning to purchase Luceum Theater, located on Nicollet Mall, for renovation to fit their needs. However, the Association's House Committee, led by Stephen R. Pflaum, felt that the renovations of Luceum Theater would not produce long term top-quality results.[1] However, Stephen R. Pflaum did like the location of Nicollet Mall; thus, leading to the idea of purchasing a block between Nicollet Avenue and Marquette Avenue for the new Orchestra Hall. He believed that the addition of the Minnesota Orchestra Hall would help bring a vibrant musical community to the area and bring people back to downtown Minneapolis.

Minnesota Orchestra Hall, an Acoustical Masterpiece

The design of the Orchestra Hall was focused on the acoustical performance of the building. However, at the time, designing acoustics for a modern concert hall was very difficult and the results were unpredictable. For example, the Avery Fisher Hall in New York's Lincoln Center, after 12 years from its opening, Avery Fisher Hall still suffered from glum sound despite of 12 million dollars of renovation.[1] Knowing the possibilities of failure, the Minnesota Orchestra hired the hailed acoustic virtuoso Dr. Cyril M. Harris, a professor of architecture and engineer at Columbia University, to lead the acoustical design.

Dr. Harris has a lifelong passion for sound ever since he visited the sound studios in the neighborhoods of Hollywood where he grew up. Eventually, he became one of the greatest acoustic designers and has designed notable acoustical performing spaces. He believed an essential acoustical feature of a concert hall is proper sound diffusion. Dr. Harris stated, "Diffusion promotes the uniformity of sound throughout the hall and, in addition, it beneficially influences the manner in which sound dies away in the hall.[1]"

The Minnesota Orchestra Hall was designed as two separate building where one building is enclosed in another. The auditorium, located in the inner building, was separated from the outer building by a one inch gap and filled with resilient material to suppress the transmission of noise into the auditorium.[1] Outside of the auditorium are offices and lobby area. In addition to controlling noise by creating two separate buildings, the large blue ducts, can be seen from the exterior, were specifically chosen for acoustical purposes. The large ducts allows air to move more freely, thus reducing extraneous noise from air flow. Furthermore, the greatest acoustical achievement for the building was developed in the details of the auditorium.

The cubes play a practical role in diffusing the sound as the orchestra play. On the other hand, the cubes aesthetics is the modern architectural equivalent for the cherubs, busts and coffers which were popular ornaments in 18th and 19th century halls.[1] Additionally, the unusual outline arrangement of the seating was designed to be optimal in reflecting sound. Even the door ways were detailed to properly diffuse sound which was stated by Dr. Harris, "This door is recessed for a good reason: its placement makes an extra niche to scatter sound - multiplied many times by the number of doorways - these irregularities in the wall surfaces help diffuse the sound through the hall.[1]"

Design Intentions

The exterior of the Orchestra Hall was less about acoustical properties but rather about blending into its surrounding community. The facade consisted of steel, glass, aluminum and brick. The aesthetics of the building was to "defamiliarize" the notion of concert going which was what architect Hugh Hardy thought about the building.[1] The design intention was to create an atmosphere where everyone felt comfortable to be in which was stated by Malcolm Holzman, from Pfeiffer Associates, " The lobby area generates enormous energy with lively colors and flying bridges. But it also is designed to be a people place, an atmosphere that makes people look good, to see and be seen.[1]" Inherently, the design of the building enhanced the cultural vibrancy of downtown Minneapolis by attracting a wide range of audiences.

The Minnesota Orchestra Hall has been an innovative concert hall since its first opening. With the ever changing technology of today, the Minnesota Orchestra Hall still meets and exceeds the current standards for sound quality. The quality of the building would not have been possible without the dedication and quality of workmanship by all the people involved in the development of the Minnesota Orchestra Hall. This was stated by Malcolm Holzman states, " The quality of workmanship is the best we have ever encountered and we were particularly fortunate to have as clients a group of equally dedicated people who were able to make decisions and never wavered from their determination not to compromise on the criteria established at the very beginning.[1]"

Memories and stories

Will was here 11/15/11

I have one memory of this building...its KICK ASS


64px}px This place is part of
the ARCH5670 Class Project
65}px This place is part of the
Minnesota Modernism Tour

Photo Gallery

Related Links


    Personal tools
    [http://discussions.mnhs.org/HP/oneonone.cfm snubnosed]