Snøhetta is leading the design for the expansion and modernization of the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra’s historic performance space, Powell Hall. To ring in the performance hall’s centennial in 2025, the organization has embarked on an ambitious 65,000-square-foot expansion with Snøhetta as design architect and landscape architect. The project will allow the concert hall to be more fully accessible and open to the community, creating a facility that supports and nurtures the creative process from idea to performance.
At the renewed Powell Hall, a collection of new public spaces will work in concert with a new lobby and back-of-house expansion to provide universal accessibility to the public as well as educational facilities and improved musician and back-stage spaces that enhance overall community use of the concert hall.
Drawing on the spatial language of historic concert halls and the instruments within, the new entry is shaped as a series of canted shells assembled from raked masonry, creating a front-of-house addition defined by simple inclined surfaces and arched openings inspired by the musical nature of the historic building and its program. Inside, a suite of new gathering areas situated within a triple-height space will include terraces that overlook one another, allowing visitors to both see and be seen while attending performances.
Softly illuminated interior circulation spaces and mezzanines will be visible from the street and plaza through an arched picture window that broadcasts life inside – including pre-performance gatherings, intermission stretches, and after-show get-togethers – to the surrounding neighborhood. The materiality of the new addition is inspired by the rich history of brick architecture in St. Louis and by the specific material palette of Powell Hall.
Throughout the expansion, architectural elements like buff brick, terra cotta, and warm metallic finishes draw material connections between the expansion and the historic building. Meanwhile, the size and massing of the new entry defers to Powell Hall physically and is joined to the historic structure by a glass ribbon, allowing new and existing spaces to work together harmoniously to improve both patron and performer experiences.
Similarly inspired by the formal properties of instruments, and by the lyricism of music itself, Snøhetta is designing a new public plaza at the corner of Grand Boulevard and Samuel Shepard Drive that brings the activities of the concert hall outside. Replacing an existing parking lot, the plaza will provide a place for patrons to gather before and after performances, offering a platform for Grand Center where impromptu displays, informal gatherings, and other collective activities can augment the creative energy exuded by the concert hall. In other areas of the site, ample circulation and arrival zones will move people quickly to their destinations while also creating spaces that can be used as flexible programmed space if the symphony desires. A series of routes in and through the site will provide accessible pathways to patrons arriving from multiple directions, and planting groves will frame the entries, extending a sense of welcome and human-scaled experience that will greet visitors upon arrival.
Additionally, a back-of-house expansion along the eastern side of Powell Hall will bring new spaces for community events, educational programs, lectures, digital programming, and other collaborations while also serving as a hub for innovation across artistic disciplines. The expansion will also create new rehearsal spaces for SLSO ensembles, modernized and expanded backstage spaces, new media and recording suites, new dressing rooms, and new storage areas for musician and guest artist use. Ultimately, the expansion of Powell Hall will make the building a productive and inspiring venue for the musical and performing arts in St. Louis and beyond.
About the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra
Celebrated as a leading American orchestra, the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra is the second-oldest orchestra in the country, marking its 142nd year with the 2021/2022 season and its third with Music Director Stéphane Denève. The SLSO maintains its commitment to artistic excellence, educational impact, and community collaborations, honoring its mission of enriching lives through the power of music. The SLSO serves as a convener of individuals, creators, and ideas, and is committed to building community through compelling and inclusive musical experiences. As it continues its longstanding focus on equity, diversity, inclusion, and access, the SLSO embraces its strengths as a responsive, nimble organization, while investing in partnerships locally and elevating its presence globally. For more information, visit slso.org.