A groundbreaking ceremony will be held at 2 p.m. Friday for Northwestern University’s new lakefront Music and Communication Building in Evanston.

The building will house the Henry and Leigh Bienen School of Music and the School of Communication.

Construction begins in early summer, and the building is projected to open in September 2015.

Northwestern President Morton Schapiro, Provost Daniel Linzer, Bienen School of Music Dean Toni-Marie Montgomery, School of Communication Dean Barbara O’Keefe and Board of Trustees Chairman William A. Osborn will provide remarks at the ceremony that will take place on the upper level of the lakeside parking structure on the southeastern edge of Northwestern’s campus, adjacent to the Arts Circle.

Invited guests will include donors whose support has made the construction possible.

Top and above: Renderings of the building’s exterior.

To be located just south of Pick-Staiger Concert Hall, 50 Arts Circle Drive, and connected to the Regenstein Hall of Music, 60 Arts Circle Drive, the new five-story structure will sit directly east of Northwestern’s Theatre and Interpretation Center and Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art, affording spectacular views of Lake Michigan and the Chicago skyline.

Designed by Chicago-based architecture firm Goettsch Partners, the signature building will total 152,000 gross square feet and include classrooms, teaching labs, academic faculty offices, teaching studios for choral, jazz, opera, piano and voice faculty, practice rooms, student lounges and administrative offices.

It will also house a 2,400-square-foot choral rehearsal/recital room, choral and orchestra libraries, a 150-seat opera rehearsal/black box theatre and a two-level, 400-seat recital hall containing undulating wooden walls that provide optimal acoustics.

A rendering of the recital hall.

The recital hall will also feature a 50-foot-high wall of cable-supported, double-skin glass, a transparent backdrop that will offer dramatic views of the lake and Chicago skyline.

In addition, the fifth floor of the new building will serve as a new south campus home for the School of Communication administration, providing the dean’s office and faculty members with new offices.

Space in the new building will enable the School of Communication to unite on one floor the faculty in the department of theatre and the department of performance studies. Moving them into the same building with colleagues in the Bienen School of Music will create new opportunities for performing arts collaborations.

The new building fits the goals of the University’s strategic plan to offer the Northwestern community and residents of the surrounding area an array of educational and cultural opportunities by establishing a physical, intellectual and performance hub on the Evanston campus.

The building design emphasizes a sustainable approach throughout, with a minimum goal of achieving LEED Silver certification from the U.S. Green Building Council.

The project will also include a new arts green to the west of the building that will consist of a 120-foot-wide pedestrian-friendly green space.

This dramatic new gateway to the new building and the fine arts area will provide a major open space amenity that can become a focal point for special events and recreation. The green space will significantly improve pedestrian safety and circulation while still allowing vehicular access to the current buildings.

Estimated cost for the new facility and adjacent arts green is $117 million.

Related links

Architect’s renderings and floor plans

More information about the project

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  1. Music building and the lake

    The picture [and others before] make it look like the path from the existing NU boat/sailing area to the Lagoon entrance will disappear—or is there a small area under the east canopy of the building for the path to continue?  

    I hope students don't mind the increase in tuition/fees that result from the building.  I'm sure NU will say that funding comes from alumni, but money is fungible—what goes to buildings is probably taken from what they would contribute to education.  One reason college costs are so high is everyone wants everything—more buildings, more sports centers, more student unions, more majors [for just a couple of students], more departments, etc..

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