New Lakefront Bienen School Building

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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 is projected to be ready for occupancy in Fall 2015. The building’s design will emphasize sustainability, and the structure is expected to receive certification from the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System.

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The design calls for 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 will integrate completely with the existing Regenstein Hall of Music, with two connections between the buildings on each of Regenstein’s three levels. (Regenstein will remain functional throughout the construction period.)

The building’s main entrance will open onto a soaring glass atrium, with lounge and reception areas offering views of the lake and downtown Chicago. In addition, the atrium will serve as the lobby for a 400-seat recital hall, where the stage’s back wall will be made of glass to provide a view of the lake and the Chicago skyline. Kirkegaard Associates — the world-renowned acoustical design firm whose president, Lawrence Kirkegaard, designed the acoustics for Pick-Staiger Concert Hall — will assist in designing the recital hall’s interior. Also slated for the building’s main floor are a black-box opera theater/rehearsal space, a choral rehearsal/recital room and classrooms. All will have exterior windows, as will the classrooms on the building’s lower level, which is not completely below grade.

Although elevators will connect all the building’s levels, the atrium floor will also connect to the second level by way of ceremonial stairs. Bienen school offices for admission and financial aid, student affairs, career services, IT support and web communication will be located on the second level. Practice rooms and faculty studios and offices will 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 will be located on the fourth level. A fifth level is planned to meet University needs other than music.

Practice rooms in Regenstein and the new building will total 150, a net gain of 55 over the current total of 95 in Regenstein, the Music Administration Building, and Music Practice Hall (the “Beehive”). All practice rooms and faculty studios will be soundproofed.

The Bienen School’s new building represents a major commitment on the part of the donors who will make this construction possible and the University administration. Faculty, staff, and students will continue to be part of the planning process as the school’s long-awaited dream moves toward reality.