Close Window

Pacific Lutheran University – Mary Baker Russell Music Center

Tacoma, Washington, USA

Team

Zimmer Gunsul Frasca Partnership, Architect; Seattle, WA
Auerbach + Associates, Theatre Consultant; San Francisco, CA
Paul Fritts, Organ Builder; Tacoma, WA

Project Description

Pacific Lutheran University has excellent choral and instrumental music programs. Historically they had performed in a low-ceilinged, dry auditorium that did little to help their music-making. Teaching and practice facilities also were separated from the performing space. The new Mary Baker Russell Music Center provides a home for their full music program, with Lagerquist Concert Hall at the heart of the building.

The hall seats fewer than 550, but the stage is sized for a full orchestra or for chorus with a chamber orchestra. The design is a traditional shoebox hall with the floor plane broken up by side arms and a raised parterre. Orchestra risers on the stage ensure good sightlines into the heart of the orchestra from anywhere in the audience and help communication on stage. The front parts of the risers are easily moved to accommodate chamber performances and jazz set-ups; the rear of the risers are demountable in case a flat floor set-up is ever desired, but to date this has not been required.

The ceiling is high (50 feet) to ensure ample reverberation for the chorus, orchestra, and a magnificent Fritts pipe organ. Lower side walls are undulating wood paneling with inset seating niches. The upper walls of the room are painted block, with a mixture of split-face and honed-face block creating a beautiful pattern as well as high-frequency diffusion. Deep structural masonry pilasters provide low-frequency diffusion and allow the structural wall to double as the finished interior wall. Velour banners travel vertically between the pilasters to reduce reverberation for jazz and recital programs.

Because of noise from a nearby air force base, the hall has a pitched, shingle roof over the concrete ceiling slab, creating a deep airspace.

The room is most successful for its core uses – chorus, orchestra, and organ. It remains a fine recital space as well, with the addition of a low, rolling recital screen behind the performers.

Project Website

External Website