Hancher Auditorium
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Hancher Auditorium

Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects

Hancher Auditorium
By Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects -

Widely recognized for commissioning new works of dance and music, Hancher Auditorium reaches audiences beyond the University of Iowa. The new home for this renowned institution is on a hilltop overlooking the Iowa River, on the main route into Iowa City – a prominent location for the state’s premier performing arts presenter. The new Hancher Auditorium was designed simultaneously from the outside-in and the inside-out. The design responds to its site and context on the exterior, and to its program and planning adjacencies on the interior. The building is seen from a 360° perspective; therefore, it has been composed to have many fronts. The long sweeping curves of the building respond to the bend and flow of the Iowa River and its surrounding topography. Its tapered and cantilevered forms allow for the maximum amount of transparency at all levels of the public lobbies. This transparency is augmented by a series of exterior and interior skylights. Smaller scaled elements along Park Road echo the forms of the adjacent Levitt Center. The Levitt Center’s rotunda, along with the Hancher Rehearsal Room volume, forms a metaphorical gateway to the Arts campus. The exterior skin is comprised of stainless steel and glass ribbons. The stainless steel rain screen panel system uses a non-directional brushed finish that diffuses the light and reflection. This results in a façade that sublimely reflects the ever-changing sky, sunlight and landscape. The interior and exterior cypress wood soffits lend a welcoming and inviting quality to the building, enhancing the natural warmth of the spaces. The interior lobbies have a white terrazzo floor, plaster walls, glass and stainless steel rails. The hall utilizes plaster, expanded metal and cherry wood on both the walls and balcony fronts. The hall seating is cherry wood with fabric. All public spaces offer panoramic views of the river and the campus. The main lobby is the grand public gathering space of the building. The lobby atrium is a light filled space with a ribbon like grand stair threading and connecting the four lobby levels on its ascent. The west lobby interior wall expresses the shaping and movement of the building and is finished, as is the grand stair, in a special pearlescent plaster. The various lighting elements in the lobby can be adjusted to host a variety of events. The ceiling can also incorporate production lighting for performances. The skylights that appear on different levels reinforce the shape of the building and allows for dramatic secondary lighting. The new auditorium creates an extraordinarily intimate experience between the patrons and the performers on stage. The curved, sweeping balconies and terraces continue the idea of the exterior ribbons throughout the interior of the hall. These sinuous ribbons weave their way towards the proscenium and create a focus for the audience. The arced LED lighting fixtures reinforce the shape and geometry of both the building and the hall which creates a dramatic theatrical experience. These lights can be individually adjusted to create a multitude of effects.
A collapsible cherry wood and expanded metal orchestra shell, Adjustable acoustics, AV systems and production lighting give the hall great flexibility and can be tailored specifically for performances ranging from orchestra and opera to Broadway presentations and dance. Although the rehearsal room has its own exterior entrance, a grand gallery connects it to the main lobby. This highly flexible room can host events ranging from receptions to experimental theater, including potential events utilizing the acoustically glazed north wall and intimate outdoor amphitheater. The adjustable acoustics, a walkable tension wire grid, and special lighting allows for flexibility of use. The loading dock and loading court off of Park road was designed to accommodate large turning radii required by semi-trucks. Three berths/truck-docks load directly in to the scene dock/transfer area, which is directly adjacent to the main stage. The music school scene shop, which has its own loading berth off the same loading court, is also directly adjacent to the stage. The scene shop has a gantry crane and paint pit for creating oversized stage set drops. The dressing rooms, the production offices, crew rooms are all designed for maximum efficiency and convenient stage relationships and the costume shop at the second level makes use of the north light and look out towards City Park.

Location: Iowa City, Iowa, USA
Completion Date: 2016
Cost: 94,000,000 Euros
Owner: University of Iowa
Architect: Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects
Design Principal in Charge: Mitchell A. Hirsch
Design Team Leader: Gina Narracci
Senior Designer: Amrit Pilo
Design Team: Katy Harp Dinnen, Dylan Hames, Tiffany Fu, Carl Cornilsen

Architect of Record: OPN Architects
Structural and Curtainwall: Thornton Tomasetti
MEP: Alvine Engineering
Landscape: Balmori Associates/Confluence
Theatre Planning: Theatre Projects Consultants
Acoustics: Kirkegaard Associates
Civil: Shive-Hattery
AV/Telecommunications: Threshold Acoustics
LEED: Atelier Ten
Elevators: Lerch Bates
Lighting: Cline Bettridge Bernstein Lighting Design
Interior Designer: Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects
Graphics and Wayfinding: Pentagram
Cost: Vermeulens Cost Consultants

Wall System: Stainless Steel Panels
Wood Ceilings: Rulon International
Lighting: Lightblock, Winona Lighting
Seat: Ducharme Seating
Metal Structure: Linderer Metals
Flooring: Constantine Carpet
Cladding: Weber Stone

Glass: AGC Interpane

Photography: © Jeff Goldberg/ESTO

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