Any performing-arts organization exists to serve the magic that happens in the hall. But what happens in the lobby can be just as important—to the experience of patrons and to the bottom line. The Minnesota Orchestra proved this with the recent renewal of its Orchestra Hall. This $52 million project saw KPMB Architects turn cramped, dated lobbies into civic spaces that have doubled the orchestra’s event revenues and created valuable community outreach.

The project was born from the organization’s sense that its facility, designed by Hardy Holzman Pfeiffer and opened in 1974, was turning off potential patrons. “They knew they had to reposition themselves within the city,” explains KPMB associate Chris Couse. An aging audience was “fanatically committed” to the orchestra, “but there was no uptake from younger generations.” (This became a particularly acute problem during a 16-month labor dispute with the musicians from late 2012 to 2014, during the renovation.)

Accordingly, the architects left the acclaimed performance hall largely intact—discreetly upgrading the lighting, seats, and technology—but pushed for the lobby to take on a public spirit. “We said, We’re going to reconnect this to the city, widen the sidewalks, and make people feel it is an amenity they could share in,” says principal Marianne McKenna.

The old lobby structure extended from the north and east sides of the rectangular hall toward a multileveled public square called Peavey Plaza. KPMB retained this basic configuration and kept much of the lobby volume’s steel structure and its recently updated mechanical systems. But the old walls, plastered with promotional images of the orchestra, came down. New additions pushed farther out toward the park and street with facades of pale blue glass curtain wall and Silver Shadow limestone from Alabama. The materials offer a gentle contrast with the orange-brick walls of the theater volume behind, whereas the new lobby differs radically from the old. The 1970s scheme divided attendees onto a series of terraces, limiting capacity and circulation. The new design more than doubles the lobby size, up from about 16,000 square feet to around 30,000, partly by eliminating terraces between floors and their accompanying stairs. This helped the building become fully accessible and ADA-compliant.

The architects extended the program by proposing an entirely new space: the Target Atrium, an informal performance hall that holds 200 people and connects to an adjacent patio. Orchestra CEO Kevin Smith calls the changes transformative. “The new lobby and the Target Atrium have expanded the experience of coming to the hall. Now when people arrive,” he says, “they will see and hear different kinds of work around them”—performances by chamber groups, jazz groups, or by one of about 30 community organi- credits zations that have partnered with the orchestra.

This has had a powerful effect, Smith says, on the orchestra’s relationship with the city: “Not only do we have an environment that’s more inviting to the public, but the number of rental events has increased.” The hall hosted 90 private events in 2015–16, up from 38 the year before the renovation. The lobby and improved servery facilities have more than doubled food and beverage revenues to about $1.3 million in 2015–16; and subscriptions, donations, and ticket sales are up significantly. The lesson, McKenna says, is simple: “You have to take care of the patrons first.”

Back to Good Design Is Good Business 2017



KPMB Architects
322 King Street West, 3rd Floor
Toronto, Ontario, M5V 1J2
Phone: 416- 977-5104

Personnel in architect's firm who should receive special credit:

Marianne McKenna (partner-in-charge) - registered
Chris Couse (principal) - registered
Bruce Kuwabara (partner) - registered
Robert Sims (senior associate) - registered
Meika McCunn (associate) - registered
Dave Smythe (associate)

Carolyn Lee (interior design associate)
Sanaz Shirshekar - registered
Ramon Janer
Janice Wong
Farhan Durrani
Razvan Ghilic Micu
Sharareh Borzabadi Farahani
Sheida Shahi
Danielle Sucher


Architect of record:

KPMB Architects


Interior designer:

KPMB Architects



Meyer, Borgman and Johnson Inc. (structural)
Dunham Engineering (mechanical, electrical)



Sound Spacee Design (acoustics)
Schuler Shook (lighting)
Westwood Professional Services (surveyor)
Summit Fire Protection (building code)


General contractor:

Mortenson Construction



Tom Arban, George Heinrich and Nic Lehoux



Exterior Cladding

Other cladding unique to this project: Alabama silver Limestone., Mesabi Black Granite
Precast, Structural Glass Glazing System, Glass, Aluminum
Bars:  Statuarietto Bar tops, powder coat steel Bar fronts
White Oak Panelling-Acoustic and non-Acoustic
Acoustic Ceiling Plaster
Upholstered Auditorium Seating: White Oak backs and End Panels

Interior Finishes

Special interior finishes unique to this project: Flooring: Champaign Mist Granite Lobby Floor
White Oak floor, Target Atrium and Auditorium
Carpeting at lobby Balconies and Auditorium Aisles
Mesabi Black Bench

Subcontractors and Suppliers

Advantage Scaffolding, exterior scaffolding

AE Conrad, acoustical plaster ceilings

American Structural Metals, structural steel

Anchor Block Company, masonry material supplier

Anderson Ladd, wood flooring

Arteka Companies, landscaping

Bald Eagle Erectors, concrete reinforcement

Building Material Supply, toilet accessories material supplier

Carl Bolander & Sons, earthwork and utilities

CD Tile & Stone Inc., Nicollet Mall pavers

Cemstone Products Company, concrete Redi-Mix supplier

Cold Spring Granite, exterior granite material

Construction Supply, specialties material supplier

Danny’s Construction Company, Inc., temporary structural bracing

Eco Cleaning Solutions, final cleaning

E-Con-Placer, concrete pumping

Empirehouse, glass and glazing

Exterior Building Services, foundation waterproofing

Floors by Beckers, carpet

Gage Brothers Concrete Products, architectural precast supply and erection

Grazzini Brothers & Company, stone and ceramic tile flooring

Harris Companies, mechanical

Heebink Architectural Woodwork, architectural woodwork material supplier

Hunt Electric Corporation, electrical

Infinity Scaffold, scaffolding and fall arrest system

Irwin Seating Company, auditorium fixed seating

Kendell Doors & Hardware, doors and hardware supplier

Maverick Cutting and Breaking, concrete sawcutting

MG McGrath, metal panels

Olympic Companies, drywall and plaster

Parsons Electric, audiovisual

Rosenquist Construction, roofing

SECOA, Inc., auditorium rigging systems

Sunrise Painting & Wallcovering, painting

ThyssenKrupp Elevator Corporation, elevators and escalator

Twin Cities Acoustics, acoustic walls and ceilings

Vetter Stone Company, exterior limestone supplier

The majority of the materials used for construction came from Minnesota and other Midwest suppliers, including Cold Spring Granite from Cold Spring, Minnesota, and Vetter Stone from Mankato—both of which supplied materials for the Hall’s exterior. Other materials came from as far as Alabama (limestone granite), the Amazon (wood pavers) and England (glass panels). In addition, the cutting of granite for the stone flooring was done in India.