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Hill Auditorium, University of Michigan

Ann Arbor, MI

The unique parabolic shape, exceptional acoustics, and large size of the Hill Auditorium created one of the most significant concert halls in America. Designed by Albert Kahn with noted acoustic scientist Hugh Tallant, the auditorium was dedicated on June 25, 1913, and immediately became a centerpiece of the University of Michigan campus.

The building’s design featured decorative terracotta, tapestry brickwork, massive stone masonry, ornamental plaster, and a rich polychromatic decorative finish. In the late 1940s, the original seating was replaced and the original Arts and Crafts interior and rich auditorium lighting were eliminated. Great performances and literary presentations continued, even as the Hall became technically more outdated with each new decade. The building was placed in the National Register of Historic Places in the late 1970s.

After almost 90 years, a complete renewal of all building and theatrical systems was imperative. Plans to renew and thoughtfully upgrade the auditorium to a state-of-the-art performance venue emerged in 1998. Kahn restored the exterior of the historic structure including the monumental limestone and tapestry brick façade. The large stone and brick front terrace was also reconstructed.

Inside, the auditorium has been returned to the original Arts and Crafts interior, with the unique 2,000 sq. ft. interior skylight and special bands of ornamental lighting that gave the original hall such a special quality. The acoustic characteristics were preserved and the 1949 seats were replaced with historically appropriate fixed seating.

Elevators, restrooms, and new lobbies have been carefully inserted into the restored building. A west addition was completed to allow barrier-free access to the stage and orchestra level of the auditorium.

Now a new grand staircase extends below the historic grand stairs to the new lower lobby and concessions area, which also displays the School of Music’s Historic Stearns Collection of Musical Instruments. Behind the walls, a comprehensive building system upgrade was performed including the replacement of all plumbing, heating, ventilating systems, and air-conditioning was introduced. With this massive restoration complete, the Hill Auditorium will continue to serve the University and the greater Michigan public well into the 21st century.


2005 ESD Construction & Design Award
2005 AIA Detroit Honor Award
2005 AIA Michigan Honor Award
2005 AIA National Honor Award

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