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12B - The Michigan Daily - Weeked Magazine - Thursday, January 8, 2004
For a year and a
half, Hill Au dito-
rium was an eye-
sore and a headache for
Historic Hill Auditorium finally restored to fo
By Alexandra Jones Daily Arts Writer
University students, faculty and administration. The beautiful
red and tan mosaic that lies between the building and North
University Avenue had been covered with tarps, bricks, chunks
of insulation, dust and debris. A tall chain-link fence and con-
tractors' trailers surrounded the site. To make matters worse,
the University Musical Society had difficulty finding large
venues for world-famous musicians. Academic ceremonies
like convocation had to be held elsewhere. The School of
Music's large ensembles were forced to relocate concerts to
less-than-ideal settings like the Michigan Theater.
Hill Auditorium, dedicated on
stage during his 70th birthday tour. He chose to play only three
American cities: New York, Washington D.C. and Ann Arbor.
There's definitely something special about Hill Auditorium.
Fischer says of the renovation, "There has been interest in,
renovating Hill for a long, long time, and it was simply a mat-
ter of when the University felt it had the resources to be able
to do the job.
"So they're handling the renovation in several phases, and this
first phase is the renovation and restoration of the hall as we
know it now. The next phase of renovation will be, we hope, a
backstage addition." This addition
June 25, 1913, was in dire shape
before the renovation. The brick
pattern that lies in front of the
building's stately white columns
was faded and damaged. Aestheti-
cally, Quinn Evans repaired and
"I always loved (Hill's) clarity. will accommodate visiting artists as
,t's .well as School of Music bands and
It' so bi g and resonant, it has a orchestras that regularly perform
presence of its own." concerts. "Anyone who has used Hill
.EcuAuditorium knows that the backstage
~~ Corynn Eggener, School of Music alum needs major expansion and improve-
reworked the brick mosaic, cleaned
and replaced exterior doors, windows and lettering, and
repaired or replaced roof tiles.
Band-O-Rama, an annual fundraising concert that features
the University of Michigan Symphony Band, Concert Band
and Marching Band, had to be eliminated in 2002 and 2003.
Symphony Band concerts featuring the music of John Phillip
Sousa and George Gershwin were held in Michigan Theater to
substitute for Band-O-Rama, and the Collage Concert was
relocated to the Power Center.
But the scheduling problems and ugly construction are finally
gone. At 1:00 this afternoon, Hill Auditorium's status as a historic
site will be reaffirmed by an unveiling ceremony. Speakers at the
ceremony will include representatives from Quinn Evans Archi-
tects, the firm that oversaw the renovation, School of Music Dean
Karen Wolff and UMS president Ken Fischer. The auditorium
will be open for self-led walking tours until 7:30 this evening.
"You've got a great hall that's large. It's half the size of
Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center and Avery Fisher Hall (the for-
mer home of the New York Philharmonic)," says Fischer.
There's no question that Hill is a hallowed site for the per-
forming arts. Musicians, like vocalists Jessey Norman, Cecilia
Bartolli and Enrico Caruso, cellist Yo-Yo Ma and bandleader
and jazz clarinetist Benny Goodman have performed there.
Leonard Bernstein conducted the Vienna Philharmonic on Hill's
ment," Fischer explains.
First phase of the Hill renovations began on May 13, 2002. It
was estimated that the renovation would take 18 months to com-
plete and cost $38.6 million. To begin the process, the Universi-
ty secured the expertise of Quinn Evans, an Ann Arbor firm that
specializes in restoring historic buildings. The firm has worked
to maintain and preserve structures like the Kennedy Center for
the Performing Arts Concert Hall, George Washington's boy-
hood home and parts of the Peabody Institute at Johns Hopkins
University. Here at the University, it has worked on the Detroit
Observatory, the School of Natural Resources and the Environ-
ment, and classrooms in the Law School.
Some of the renovation's more practical changes include an
increased number of restrooms, from 14 to 22 for men and
from 10 to 30 for women, as well as one unisex restroom.
Sound and light locks have been added at the entrance of the
auditorium from the lobby. Sound locks will keep noise from
the lobby and the sound of traffic out of the performance
space, and light locks will prevent light from opened doors
during daytime shows from seeping into the auditorium. "If
someone was walking around in the lobby, you could hear a
clip-clop sound inside the auditorium," says Wolff.
One of the most pragmatic - and most anticipated - addi-
tions to the historic performance venue is the installation of
an air conditioning system. Electrical and ventilation systems
rmer glory have also been
The most important
renovation, however, is
the addition of ramps and elevators. Until now, the stage had
been only accessible via stairs; artists, audience members and
students receiving degrees if they needed wheelchairs or other
assistive equipment could not easily get onstage. The auditori-
um's new design includes ramps on either side of the stage so
that anyone can easily enter the stage area.
Additionally, the mezzanine area was only accessible by
stairs. For the first time in Hill's existence, attendees who
experience difficulty climbing stairs can access the balcony
area via elevator. Seating for audience members with wheel-
chairs had also been problematic in the past, but seats have
been created on both the main floor and the mezzanine to
accommodate those with assistive equipment. Though the
changes in seating have'reduced the number of seats to 3,710
from 4,169, Fischer thinks that the loss in revenue is worth it.
"I applaud the University for their overall policy of inclusion
and diversity," he says.
Another practical feature Hill lacked was a concession area.
The University worked with Quinn & Evans to create a snack
bar in the lobby in hopes that concessions will create a more
fun experience. "More and more people are looking at con-
certgoing as a social experience. They want to meet with their
friends, talk about performances - and now they have a place
to do that right in Hill Auditorium," Fischer explains. Conces-
sions will be served at both the Elizabeth E. Kennedy Lower
Lobby and on the mezzanine level.
While students, faculty and administration alike are excited about
the modern adjustments made to the facility, many are still unsure of
what Hill will sound like now that changes have been made.
The final acoustics test occurred this morning. Wolff explains,
"The architects were careful not to change Hill's signature sound.
There was a bounce-back coming from the back of the auditorium,
but acousticians believe that this problem has been remedied."
School of Music alum Corynn Eggener says, "I always loved
(Hill's) clarity. It's so big and resonant, it has a presence of its
own." One of her favorite memories of Hill was waiting in line
overnight for the UMS Half-Price Ticket Sale. "That was one of
the coolest experiences of my undergrad. We played Scrabble."
Director of Bands Michael Haithcock, who conducts the
Symphony Band, sums up his feelings about the new Hill: "I
hope it sounds exactly the same. It's glorious. The resonance
in the hall is almost perfect."