University of Wisconsin Madison Hamel Music Center
Madison, Wis.  
Project of The Year Finalist and Best Project

Developer: University of Wisconsin
Owner: University of Wisconsin
Lead Design Firm: Holzman Moss Bottino Architecture
Architect of Record: Strang Inc.
General Contractor: JP Cullen
Structural Engineer: raSmith
Civil Engineer: OTIE Engineering

Built on a heavily trafficked and often noisy corner of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the Hamel Music Center’s design was driven by acoustic considerations. The 75,000-sq-ft performance, instruction, recording and practice space consolidates smaller facilities across campus and includes a 660-seat main concert hall, a 320-seat recital hall and a rehearsal room that can accommodate a full orchestra. Although enclosed within the same building, the three performance spaces were built as separate structures to help isolate them acoustically. An acoustic joint further isolates each music hall from vibrations conducted by the building’s hard surfaces.

Unusual and highly precise concrete forms were required in the main hall to create circular openings at specific locations in the 70-ft-high cast-in-place walls. The openings connect to large chambers on each side of the hall to provide reverberance.

Mechanical systems are routed through corridors and back-of-house spaces to keep any noise or vibration from transferring to the structures surrounding the three music halls. Pipes are wrapped with additional insulation to absorb sound. To eliminate air noise while maintaining comfortable circulation in the concert hall, air is diffused from underneath the seats on the main floor and from the back of balcony seating instead of through large vents.

The accordion-like exterior envelops 16-in.-thick double walls that shield each hall from outside noise. The roof is made of 50,000 lb of placed concrete to further reduce noise.

Concrete work presented numerous challenges throughout the project. Extra rebar install time caused the high wall crew to lose schedule time. As a result, the team developed rebar lift drawings to help crews pre-tie all mats prior to the inside forms being set. This included the locations of acoustical coffers, box-outs, dowels and add-bar. By enabling the concrete contractor to tie ahead of the wall crew, the team could save as much as a full day on corner pours. There was no room on site for the rebar contractor to pre-tie their mats on the ground, so the team built an elevated pre-tie deck. Finished rebar mats were then picked by the tower crane and set into place.

“It was a once in a lifetime opportunity to be able to build something like this,” says Tim Bizjak, senior project manager at JP Cullen. “Not many people can say they’ve built a performance arts center, not to mention one with this level of finishes.”

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