Missouri’s St. Louis Symphony Orchestra Announces Concert Hall Renovation 

The symphony’s concert venue, Powell Hall, will see an extensive expansion, including an education and learning center

2
(Image courtesy: St. Louis Symphony Orchestra/Twitter)

 

Built in 1925 as a movie theater, Powell Hall was originally named the St. Louis Theater and became the permanent home of the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra (SLSO) in 1968. It was also added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2001.

The concert hall’s redevelopment will be the first major renovation project at the historic Grand Center building since 1968. Key elements of the refurbishment include a 65,000 square-foot expansion with a 3,400 square-foot education and learning center, a new lobby, and backstage space for artists.

The expansion is aimed to enable greater community interactions, innovations, and connection as well as enhance the audience-artist dynamic through modernizing the venue while preserving its historic character.

“[Powell Hall has] superb architecture, which we plan to preserve,” said SLSO president and CEO Marie-Hélène Bernard in St. Louis Magazine. “It has some of the finest acoustics of any concert hall in the country, but like many halls over the years, especially approaching 100 years, there is an aging process. So we need to update. The audience experience has evolved, and the experience of artists has evolved as well.”

 

 

The hall’s new learning center will become a rehearsal space for the St. Louis Symphony Chorus, IN UNISON Chorus, and St. Louis Symphony Youth Orchestra, plus provide space for education programs, lectures, and events. 

The center will also be a platform for building partnerships to continue the SLSO’s programs which include over 300 performances and events annually.

Still in its planning phase, the Powell Hall project will be presented on March 28 before the St. Louis Preservation Board. The project will be led by architectural firms Snøhetta and Christner Architects, alongside theater planning consultant Schuler Shook, acoustics design firm Kirkegaard, and BSI Constructors.

Project plans include a reduction of the auditorium’s capacity from 2,683 to 2,150 seats – featuring larger seats and additional legroom to increase comfort and improve accessibility.

ADA-accessible features will include additional seating, and to improve the hall’s safety, handrails will be added as well as three elevators. Additionally, a state-of-the-art lighting system will also be installed.

“We serve a very broad range of audiences, from the very young to the very old,” Bernard continued. “[This project] will also really enable anyone to facilitate their access to the building, but also make it easy for people to enjoy the experience. 

“Social connections are so important to music and how music can take different forms and shapes,” Bernard reflected. “The additional space and the renovated space will allow for interesting explorations that we cannot necessarily do right now...This project is for our community,” Bernard said. “We’re making an important investment in our city and our region.”

“The renovation and expansion of Powell Hall will fortify the SLSO’s position as an economic engine for the region, which already triggers $100 million of economic activity each year,” added Chair of SLSO’s board of trustees, Steve Finerty. “SLSO is delighted to be a part of this trajectory, supporting St. Louis’ reputation as an extraordinary place to live with one of our nation’s most established and thriving cultural and arts scenes.”