Hancher Auditorium at University of Iowa

Iowa City, Iowa
  • 2020 • United States Institute for Theatre Technology
    Architecture Merit Award
  • 2019 • American Institute of Architects, Connecticut Chapter
    Building of the Year
  • 2019 • American Institute of Architects, Connecticut Chapter
    Award of Excellence
  • 2018 • The Chicago Athenaeum: Museum of Architecture and Design
    American Architecture Award
  • 2017 • Master Builders of Iowa
    Masters Award of Exemplary Construction
  • 2017 • International Association of Lighting Design
    Award of Excellence
  • 2017 • The Illuminating Engineering Society
    Merit Award

Designed in collaboration with Pelli Clarke Pelli, the $132-million performing arts center replaces the original iconic Hancher, which was flooded in 2008.

For more than 30 years, Hancher Auditorium has presented the finest in world culture to students and the public alike. The original building was designed by Max Abramovitz (1972), and stood as an icon, symbolizing the arts for the University, the community and the State of Iowa. It is the desire of the University for the replacement facility to carry that same distinction.

The University of Iowa chose a location at a high point along the Iowa River for the new Hancher. A building without a backside, Hancher’s seamless sinewy lines respond to the adjacent Iowa River and is orientated so that all public areas offer a visual connection to the University of Iowa campus. Parallel forms cantilever at the south end of the building, creating overhangs for the lobby and a second-level terrace. Floor-to-ceiling glass walls below the cantilevers offer views to the campus and the river, and can be seen from Hancher Bridge and points south. Lobby spaces and offices have shaded sunlight during the day.

A jewel in the park, Hancher is orientated on the site so that all public areas offer a visual connection to the rest of the art buildings and the campus as a whole. It respects the original building’s design as well as that of the adjacent Levitt Center for University Advancement. Designed to complement, not compete, Hancher’s form, massing, color, and material complement the adjacent Levitt Center, a limestone-clad asymmetrical composition of geometric forms. Cladding on Hancher Auditorium’s main structure is a stainless steel shingle with a brushed satin finish. The rehearsal room, a cubic form, is clad in light-colored masonry. Together, the rehearsal room and the Levitt Center’s rotunda frame Park Road, becoming a gateway.

The 189,000-square-foot building has a large multi-purpose proscenium theater with 1,800 seats, hosts music, dance, opera, and theatrical performances. In addition, the building contains spaces for rehearsals and teaching, offices, a scene shop, and a costume shop.

Designed with a highly efficient envelope and incorporating sustainable design strategies related to the site and to building systems and controls, the building is LEED silver certified. As a replacement for the original Hancher, damaged by flooding in 2008, the building is also designed to 500-year-flood criteria.

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