Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Center for the Musical Arts

About The Building

In February 2008, Northwestern University announced plans for a new music building. A design competition followed, with proposals sent to 25 architectural firms and Chicago-based Goettsch Partners was eventually selected as the winner.  

On May 18, 2012, a groundbreaking ceremony celebration was held on the site of the future building, and on June 20, construction work began. The new building held some academic music classes during the spring 2015 quarter. Faculty and administrative offices moved during summer 2015 and the building was fully occupied by fall 2015. The building’s design emphasizes sustainability, and the structure is expected to receive certification from the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System.

The design features a limestone base supporting an exterior that is primarily glass — taking maximum advantage of the site’s lakefront location and views of the Chicago skyline. The building integrates completely with the existing Regenstein Hall of Music, with two connections between the buildings on each of Regenstein’s three levels.

The building’s main entrance opens onto a soaring glass atrium, with lounge and reception areas offering views of the lake and downtown Chicago. In addition, the atrium serves as the lobby for the 400-seat Mary B. Galvin Recital Hall. Kirkegaard Associates — the world-renowned acoustical design firm whose president, Lawrence Kirkegaard, designed the acoustics for Pick-Staiger Concert Hall — assisted in designing the Mary B. Galvin Recital Hall’s interior, which features a glass wall offering stunning views of the Chicago skyline.

The Shirley Welsh Ryan Opera Theater, a 150-seat black box theater, will provide an integral, flexible space for opera rehearsals as well as an intimate venue for small one-act operas and other performances by students and faculty. Also on the building’s first floor is the 120-seat David and Carol McClintock Choral and Recital Room, as well as several classrooms, all with exterior windows. Learn more about the Ryan Center's Performance Spaces

Bienen School offices for admission and financial aid, student affairs, career services, IT support and web communication are located on the second level. Practice rooms and faculty studios and offices occupy the remainder of the second level as well as most of the third level. Offices of the dean, associate deans and other administrative staff are located on the fourth level. Administrative offices for the School of Communication reside on the fifth level.

On September 2, the University announced the building would be named for Patrick and Shirley Ryan, longtime supporters of the arts both at Northwestern and in the greater Chicago area.

The Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Center for the Musical Arts represents a major commitment on the part of the many donors and University administration who have made this construction possible. A ribbon-cutting ceremony held on September 24, 2015, kicked off a year-long celebration of Bienen School activities for the new building.

Photos and Videos

In video below, students of the Bienen School of Music react to seeing the new building, which opened for spring quarter classes on March 30, 2015. Watch in HD on Vimeo.

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