Merit - SCUP/AIA-CAE Excellence in Architecture for Rehabilitation, Restoration or Preservation

University of Minnesota

Northrop Auditorium Revitalization
University of Minnesota - Northrop Auditorium Revitalization
Jury Comments
“. . . careful modernizing and revitalization of a campus heritage building into a contemporary venue while retaining the historic character . . . appreciate the careful and technically challenging surgery they did into the building . . . really beautiful project . . .”


    • Site – 3.1 acres; Building – 172,000 gsf
    • With only 14,000 sq ft of additional space, this project transformed the purpose of Northrop, creating a multipurpose center of distinction for the performing arts and academics together.
    • Many historical aspects were preserved, while new elements were thoughtfully designed to tie modern with historical.
    • The comprehensive interior renovation reinterprets the Beaux-arts language of the existing building.
    • As the most exquisite character-defining element of the historic auditorium, the proscenium arch played a focal role in the identity of the modern design.
    • Since reopening, the number of events held at Northrop each year has grown from 50 to over 1,850.


Built in 1929, Northrop Auditorium historically served as the state’s academic and cultural heart. Entering its ninth decade, Northrop’s age had become conspicuous and its size was a liability. Without academic spaces, students rarely stepped foot inside. One study noted: “There is no aspect of Northrop without issue.”

Concluding that it wasn’t feasible to preserve the original performance hall, the university and design team developed a breakthrough combination of right-sizing the hall while introducing visionary and interdisciplinary academic programming. This innovative solution promised a building sustained by daily activity while opening the possibility of addressing the acoustical and theatrical shortcomings.

Layered programming demanded that each space respond to multiple hyper-performative uses without any of them overwhelming the character of the building. From planning through construction, professionals from nearly 30 disciplines orchestrated input to ensure that every space appropriately met its academic, public, and performance needs.

Northrop’s renovation and addition reimagines the landmark as a lively hub of academic and artistic activity at the center of campus. The vision to create a space for world-class performance surrounded by diverse academic programming fosters innovative interactions, collaborations, and public gathering. Along with the reconfigured state-of-the-art performance hall, new theater, and support spaces, Northrop now houses the Institute for Advanced Studies, University Honors Program, and the College of Design’s Innovation Lab. The addition of a cafe, gallery, six study lounges, and 55,000 square feet of public space draws a steady mix of students, faculty, and public throughout the day.

Project Team

HGA; also Braun Intertec; Brevort; Weidt Group; Spye Experience; ARUP; Schoenstein & Company; Hess Roise & Company; Meyer Borgman Johnson; ESI; Rippe Associates; Eidahl Consulting; Lerch Bates; Summit Fire Consulting