University of Minnesota, Northrop Auditorium Revitalization

A beloved icon made modern

Northrop Auditorium, built in 1929, has long been a landmark on the University of Minnesota campus. The massive structure has played host to thousands of events over the decades, ranging from band concerts to dance performances, rousing speeches to rock concerts. But as Northrop entered its ninth decade, its age was beginning to show and its size had become a liability.

University officials selected HGA to renovate the building, shrinking the size of the concert hall to improve acoustics—which had always been a problem. Simultaneously, they wanted to improve sightlines. Plaster was crumbling; backstage areas lacked space and professional amenities; the loading dock was center stage and difficult to access. One recent study noted: “There is no aspect of Northrop without issue.”

HGA designers reconfigured the cavernous central auditorium, adding state-of-the-art technologies and improving acoustics beyond expectations. The main 2,700-seat auditorium is now ringed by new lobbies, concessions, honors programs, and classroom spaces. The addition of a dance rehearsal studio, and an intimate 168-seat hall used for lectures, chamber ensembles, and film showings under the same roof expands both academic and entertainment programming.

Many historical aspects, including unique Beaux Arts detailing, Memorial Hall with its twinkling chandeliers, ceremonial stairs, and the iconic luminaires of the logia sidewalls, were preserved in the design. New sweeping staircases, atrium overlooks, and reconditioned proscenium medallions were carefully detailed to tie modern with classical. The new Northrop provides an enhanced patron experience, expanded accommodations for performers, and space for inter-disciplinary collaboration and innovation.

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