Pennsylvania State University Recital Hall

Architect: William Rawn Associates, Architects Inc.

Owner: Pennsylvania State University

Location: University Park, Pa.

Assoc. Architect: Bostwick Design Partnership

This project, the first to emerge from Pennsylvania State University's College of Arts and Architecture master plan, replaces an outdated recital hall at the core of the university's School of Music. It adds nearly 14,000 square feet to an existing building and rectifies its predecessor's acoustic and visibility challenges.

A key objective of the master plan is to create a new center of gravity for the arts in a precinct of the campus by adding new facilities and broadening opportunities for transparency. The plan imagines a future arts quadrangle at the center, ringed by compelling art, music, theater, and architecture facilities. The new recital hall is a vessel for collaboration and highly reflective of the school's mission to amplify interdisciplinary connections and core values.

The plan considered renovations of the existing main performance space in the School of Music, but ultimately a replacement was deemed more cost-effective. The project added a new 410-seat recital hall and lobby, while the existing volume was transformed into a rehearsal room and critical backstage spaces.

The new building opens the School of Music to the campus and the affiliated buildings surrounding it through a new lobby and 40-foot-tall double-skin curtainwall that acoustically isolates the hall from nearby bus traffic. In addition, a terraced outdoor space connects the school's front door and an adjacent theater building while also providing moments of interaction among students and faculty in both programs.

Inside, the hall's shape promotes interaction between the audience and student performers. The vineyard-style recital hall, the first at this scale, has audience seating that encloses the stage on four sides to maximize intimacy. No seat in the hall is more than eight rows from the stage. Seating is decidedly low and requires vomitory entrances from backstage. As such, the audience has an intimate performer's perspective.

The team's primary goal was to engage the senses through acoustic excellence. Close collaboration with an acoustic consultant throughout the project informed the shape and volume of the performance space and the resulting massing. Design elements throughout, including the distinctive wood ceiling, address acoustic performance and provide the audience with a memorable and engaging experience.

The new recital hall is now the School of Music's central teaching and performance space. As such, it is used for a wide range of student and community performances and classes, clearly displaying the strengths of this segment of the university community and tying it more closely to the rest of campus.

Additional information

Associate Architect: Bostwick Design Partnership

Acoustic Consultant: Talaske

Theatre Consultant: Next Stage Design

Engineer - Structural: LeMessurier

Engineer - MEP: Barton Associates

Engineer - Civil: Stahl Sheaffer Engineering

General Contractor: PJ Dick


Janani Kanna, AIA, Chair, Corgan, Los Angeles

Marlene Imirzian, FAIA, Marlene Imirzian & Associates Architects, Phoenix; Escondido, Calif.

Taal Safdie, AIA, Safdie Rabines Architects, San Diego

Mark Bacon, AIA, BVH Architects, Ltd., Lincoln, Neb.

Jodi Ernst, AIA, Architect of the Capitol, Bethesda, Md.

Image credits

Pennsylvania State University Recital Hall-07

Robert Benson Photography

Pennsylvania State University Recital Hall-03

Robert Benson Photography

Pennsylvania State University Recital Hall-06

Robert Benson Photography