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Ordway Center for the Performing Arts

HGA Architects and Engineers

Shared By



  • Tim Carl
  • Jamie Milne Rojek
  • Gary Reetz


  • General Contractor: McGough
  • Other: Akustiks
  • Other: Schuler Shook

Project Status


Year Completed




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Project Description

The Ordway is renowned as a world-class performance venue and one of the most elegant and beautiful cultural gathering places in the Twin Cities. The Arts Partnership, comprised of the Minnesota Opera, The Ordway Center for the Performing Arts, The Schubert Club and The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, charged HGA’s design team to understand and build upon both of these qualities. Working with the Arts Partners, it was clear from the beginning that the expansion was conceived to build upon their success and provide greater capacity for each partner to grow artistically.

The overall goal for the Ordway project was to create a 1,100-seat concert hall on the site of the under-utilized McKnight Theatre, and create new support space for music, theatre and opera via a three story addition to the existing building. The building project added a total of 57,000SF to the existing facility, with renovations to an additional 18,000SF, at a total project cost of $39 million.

The existing building was already a beautifully orchestrated facility, with a lobby of towering windows highlighting the view of historic Rice Park while acting as a glass prism to those outside, reflecting delightful views of downtown St. Paul. The addition of the concert hall required the design team to propose an expansion to this beloved lobby.

HGA’s strategy was to continue the rhythm of the windows up to Fifth Street and around the corner; the result is an addition that seamlessly connects to the existing lobby, provides a significant increase in the dramatic presence of the building along Fifth, and preserves celebrated views of such notable St. Paul landmarks as the Cathedral, Landmark Center, and the St. Paul Hotel.

The concert hall itself began with a commitment to achieving an acoustically magnificent experience for audience and performers alike, with an intimate sound that exudes warmth, resonance and clarity. Likewise, the interior look of the hall was conceived as a close, intimate setting, able to foster an engaged, emotive connection between artist and audience.

HGA’s collaborative process enabled the design team to draw inspiration from numerous conversations and meetings with artists and musicians. Matching that inspiration with the warmth and natural beauty found in materials already incorporated into the existing music theatre, lead designer Tim Carl developed a design that integrates both a horizontal and a vertical embrace, and literally wraps the audience around the artists. Working closely with his team of architects, as well as theatrical consultants Schuler Shook and acoustician Paul Scarbrough, the result is an experience for performer and audience that is both acoustically superior and physically intimate, able to accommodate the power of a full orchestra with chorus or the softest notes of a solo piano.

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