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2020 ENR Regional Best Project Recipient

Posted By Courtney Shipshock On January 6, 2021

2020 ENR Regional Best Project

Each year, Engineering News-Record selects recipients for their annual awards program, which is dedicated to honoring the best construction projects and the companies that build them. This year, UW-Madison Hamel Music Center was selected for a Regional Award in the Cultural/Worship category. In honor of the winning selection, we’re highlighting some of the innovative features of this unique facility.

Click here to learn about the other project winners.

Music Transformed

After decades of rehearsing in the basement of the Mosse Humanities Building, UW-Madison musicians will now have a state-of-the-art acoustic environment in which to prepare for and give performances. Tucked into the corner of Lake Street and University Avenue, the Hamel Music Center features cutting-edge acoustic technology designed to prepare students to perform at the highest of professional standards. As a “learning lab” it also provides students with a recording studio and access to lighting technology to gain valuable production experience.

For the first time in the School’s history, its large ensembles — including the Varsity Band, Concert Band, and Symphony Orchestra — will have their own practice and performance space large enough to safely accommodate their outsized sound. As one of Wisconsin’s premier music performance venues, the Hamel Music Center has also been designed to better connect communities in Wisconsin and beyond with the Mead Witter School of Music’s compelling performances — whether it is in person or online through digital streaming technology.

What’s Inside

The 75,000 GSF building features the Mead Witter Foundation 660- seat main concert hall, 320-seat Collins Recital hall, Sing Man & Florence Lee/Annette Kaufman Rehearsal Room for full orchestra, and assorted spaces for public and private administrative use. Situated on a compact site next to a busy — and noisy — intersection, the Hamel Music Center is a thrilling achievement of visual and acoustic design.

Structural engineers, acousticians, plumbing and mechanical experts, and other professionals worked alongside the architects and builders to design a structure to eliminate outside noise and ensure that each performance hall is acoustically isolated from the others. Each room was designed to include variable acoustics within the performance space.

Innovation at Large

The design and construction techniques used to enhance the acoustics was unique. “The acoustic considerations for this building have driven everything,” said project manager Pete Heaslett of UW–Madison Capital Planning and Development. Situated on a compact site next to a busy — and noisy — intersection, sound engineers, acousticians, plumbing and mechanical experts, and other professionals worked alongside the architects and builders to design a structure to eliminate outside noise and ensure that each performance hall was acoustically isolated from others. One of these elements was circular forms in the concrete structure. When being constructed, the forms were often mistaken for windows, but they are part of the acoustical system. They connect to large chambers on each side of the hall that allow sound into the chambers behind and provide reverberance to the concert hall. They are covered by a special sound-enhancing fabric, visible to people in the concert hall, but not from the outdoors.

Invested in Wisconsin

This project not only pushed the envelope when it came to design and construction, but also for the community. There were over 45 Wisconsin companies involved in the project. “It just goes to show,” says School of Music director Susan C. Cook, “when you invest in UW–Madison, you invest in the State of Wisconsin.”

Interested in learning about another UW-Madison project that just wrapped up? Click here. 

Filed Under JP Cullen