The University of Michigan has one of the finest music schools in the United States, functioning since 1963 in a landmark Eero Saarinen building. This understated modernist brick building suffered from too-low ceilings and compromised acoustic isolation. It needed a substantial intervention to serve the users’ needs.

Programming was key to the success of this project. Kirkegaard established a rationale for improving the existing building by shifting the loudest and most compromised activities into an uncompromised new addition. The rooms that this freed up in the existing building were then modified as necessary to serve the activities that remained. The largest room in the Brehm Pavilion, Hankinson Rehearsal Hall, was conceived as the primary rehearsal space for large, loud ensembles. Its footprint is somewhat bigger than the old rehearsal hall, and it is 50% taller. The huge increase in volume allows musicians to enjoy a comfortable loudness level, excellent communication, and a pleasant level of reverberation. The old rehearsal hall, Kevreson, was renovated for jazz, percussion, and choral rehearsals, music which works well within a more limited volume. With new motorized curtaining and diffusive surfaces behind, the room is remarkably flexible. The new lobby provides a clear entry point for visitors and easy access to all the performance spaces in the building, with acoustics designed to make it a pleasant space for receptions. The new 90-seat Watkins Lecture Hall is intended for music lectures and master classes, with a full AV system and natural acoustics suitable for small-scale recitals. The three new high-ceilinged classrooms support music classes in the mornings and small ensemble rehearsals in the afternoon and evening. McIntosh Theater was reworked to better support the choral and opera program, while still functioning as a recital space for louder instruments. New overhead reflectors, new stage walls, more versatile curtains, and rebuilt side walls transformed the space. Shifting percussion rooms out of the existing building’s practice wing removed the loudest users, improving conditions for those who remained. Some larger new practice rooms were added in the old practice wing, and the remaining old practice rooms were upgraded to improve isolation and internal acoustics. Comfortable student lounge space was created nearby. At the Dean’s suggestion, an unexcavated basement in the Brehm Pavilion became a shelled space for some future use. While the Pavilion was still in construction, the shelled space became the Brehm Technology Innovation Suite and Chip Davis Technology Studio, facilities for making and manipulating recordings and for exploring possibilities for electronic music and the intersection of music and image.

Project Details
Mechanical Noise Control
Room Acoustics Design
Sound Isolation
Integrated Design Solutions, Architect of Record, Troy, MI
Ennead, Design Architect, New York, NY
21,900 gsf - Brehm Pavilion addition; 143,000 gsf - Overall building
125-seat McIntosh Theater; 90-seat Watkins Lecture Hall; rehearsal hall; technology studio
Ann Arbor
2017 AIA Detroit Honor Award