Carleton College, Music and Performance Commons Addition

Creativity Across The Curriculum

For decades, the music department at Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota, was divided between two buildings. There were plans to add a music wing to the college’s new arts center, but footprint and height constraints were a challenge. The master plan determined that the department would likely have to span two facilities even in the future—a less-than-ideal option.

HGA, closely explored all options and found an elegant solution. Stacking elements, maximizing the site footprint and looking for shared program efficiencies could make a single-site department a reality. The resulting 55,000-SF addition, named the Music and Performance Commons at the Weitz Center for Creativity, provides a place not only for music education, lessons, practice and performance, but also for dance and other creative endeavors. The centerpiece of the addition, a 400-seat performance hall, prioritizes music performance but can also work for dance, film showings, and other multimedia activities.

Design-wise, the facility also meshes with the surrounding context, occupying a tight site within a height-restricted residential neighborhood. Large windows reduce the visible mass of the structure and the red brick complements the materials used in the existing historic building. The addition supports a broad range of music programming needs for the college and the entire community.


Northfield, MN

Building Type

Concert Hall, Music Building, Performing Arts/Drama/Dance


58,000 SF

  • 2018 AIA MN Honor Award

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