Carleton College, Music and Performance Commons Addition

Fulfilling a vision for 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, Minnesota

Building Type

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


58,000 SF

  • 2018 AIA MN Honor Award

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