Arup Provides Acoustics, Audiovisual, and Theater Design Services for the Revitalized Northrop Memorial Auditorium

Historic icon on University of Minnesota campus is fundamentally reimagined into one of the world's foremost theater venues

Jun 17, 2014, 17:47 ET from Arup

SAN FRANCISCO, June 17, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- Arup, a multidisciplinary engineering and consulting firm with a reputation for delivering innovative and sustainable designs, announced today its involvement with the newly completed $88.5M revitalization of Northrop Memorial Auditorium at the University of Minnesota. Selected by the University to partner with Hamel, Green and Abrahamson (HGA) to deliver this landmark project, Arup's integrated acoustics, audiovisual, theater and lighting design team was instrumental in the reinvention of this historic auditorium. The original 4,700 seat hall was transformed to a 2,700-seat tiered theater and 168-seat venue, and the historic building envelope now houses new pre-function, rehearsal and academic spaces. This is the largest performing arts project in the United States for Arup's integrated venue design team.

Originally opened in 1929 and known throughout the following decades as the 'Carnegie of the Midwest', Northrop was in disrepair as the project began and the university was in danger of losing an important historic landmark.  Arup approached the project by envisioning Northrop's role in supporting the sustainability of the arts for future generations of Minnesotans, while also preserving the hall's historic identity.  Arup's theater design completely transformed the main auditorium, creating an intimate audience and performer experience supported by outstanding acoustics and audio system quality. 

Through an iterative process, the project team conducted benchmark listening auditions in the proprietary Arup SoundLab® to validate the room shape, form, finishes and the resulting acoustic qualities from each seat.  On opening night, the American Ballet Theater's performance of "Giselle" successfully showcased all of the hall's technical abilities involving scale, acoustics, and technology that weren't available in the former auditorium.

Four weeks later the hall had its symphonic christening, when the Minnesota Orchestra led by Osmo Vänskä played a program of Wagner, Liszt, Tchaikovsky and Dvorak. The event repeated the original Minnesota Symphony's dedication program from Northrop's initial opening on Oct. 22, 1929. With a varied program that culminated with the bombast of Tchaikovsky's "1812 Overture" the acoustics of the room responded to the range of program in a manner that was astonishing to those familiar with the old hall; the weak distant sound had become clear, intimate and enveloping.

"The features that became the final architecture of Northrop were the outcome of a partnership between Arup, HGA and the University to create harmony between the sometimes conflicting demands of the performance and aesthetic drivers; striving to maintain the memory of Northrop while bringing it into its current context," said Joshua Cushner, associate principal in Arup's integrated design group.  "Creating harmony for the entire room between the visual and the aural was only possible by detailed attention and analysis to every part of the ceiling, walls, balcony, sightlines and seating rake."

"There is an intimacy to this hall, aesthetically and acoustically that could only have been achieved through a true collaboration between ARUP and HGA" said Tim Carl, lead design architect for HGA.

In similar fashion, the 168-seat Best Buy theater features an active architecture system that changes the room's acoustics at the press of a button. Comprised of microphones to sample the performer's sound, digital processing to create the desired acoustical characteristics, and a series of loudspeakers emitting this sound back into the room, Arup's design enables the acoustics of the room to sound natural no matter how it is being used.  A true digital chameleon, the room's acoustics are astounding, allowing the arts programming to push the aural boundaries of the space. From presentation to cinema to musical performances to a sonic space for composers of sound sculptures, this room can do it all.

About Arup
Arup is the creative force at the heart of many of the world's most prominent projects in the built environment and across industry. Its engineers and consultants deliver innovative projects across the world. Arup opened its first North American office 25 years ago and its first Canadian office in 1999, and now employs 1,000 in the Americas. The firm was founded in 1946 with an enduring set of values that fosters a distinctive culture, intellectual independence and collaborative approach. The people at Arup are driven to find a better way to deliver better solutions for their clients. (

For further information please contact:

Rebecca Maloney, LEED AP, CPSM
m +1 617 412-6632

Jennifer Shelby, CPSM
Rhino PR
m +1 508 685 0763

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