Hamel Music Center Construction

The Bucky List: Hamel Music Center

In 2010, the UW announced ambitious plans to transform the corner of Lake Street and University Avenue into a brand-new, much-needed, state-of-the-art music-performance hall. The Hamel Music Center will provide the Mead Witter School of Music with a 650-seat main concert hall, a 330-seat recital hall, and rehearsal space.

Although construction began in February 2017, planning started much earlier — in the fall of 2010. That’s when sound engineers and acousticians from a firm called TALASKE were brought on to advise builders about the construction of the main concert hall to ensure the most beautiful (eventual) sound.

The company’s founder, Richard Talaske — a Badger dad and an instructor in the UW’s Department of Engineering Professional Development — filled us in on the top five things to know about the new space.

  1. The wooden wheels that were put in place — and caused a stir of curiosity in town — will be, essentially, popped back out. “They formed the openings between the main audience chamber and some very unique spaces that attach to the concert hall,” says Talaske.
  2. And what are those special spaces? They’re reverberation chambers on the left and right of the stage that will allow sound to come in and then will reflect it back out into the audience.
  3. Each reverberation chamber is 55,000 cubic feet in volume — that’s about 163 Abe Lincoln statues or roughly 14 Route 80 buses.
  4. The design of the concert hall includes a number of coffers: series of circular, recessed panels. In addition to looking cool, these coffers offer a variety of acoustic benefits, including sound absorption and connection to the reverberation chambers.
  5. The building’s location at the intersection of Lake and University was a particular challenge to the acousticians. “The construction of the recital hall and concert hall was quite stout because of the relatively noisy conditions,” explains Talaske.
  6. For more information about the Hamel Music Center, including regular construction updates, visit music.wisc.edu/construction-hamel-music-center.

    Hamel Music Center illustration.