Chicago Symphony Center

Designed by the legendary Daniel Burnham, Chicago’s Orchestra Hall opened in 1905 to pronounced criticism. When asked how to fix the Hall’s original acoustics the famous architect Louis Sullivan was reported to have said “Whatwould be the price of six sticks of dynamite?”. It is with this challenge in mindthat the design team, led by Leigh Breslau, approached the proposition nearly 100 years later to try and fix the Chicago Symphony Center for good. Initially asked to make minor repairs to maintain the building until a new one could be constructed, the team discovered that the building was both beloved and capable of improvement. Through the acquisition of surrounding property and advanced construction methodologies, the entire building, including the concert hall, was replaced in its entirety without any significant  disruption to performance schedules. Meanwhile, the surrounding spaces were modified, expanded, replaced and reconfigured. The goal was to expand the volume and size of the main hall to improve acoustics and artistic and public accommodation, replace and reconfigure the seating, and provide for significantly expanded lobbies, a new restaurant, café and retail space, a donors club, massive expansion of artistic support and administrative areas, and allow for the future accommodation of a large recital hall and all of its support. The original complex was tripled in size to nearly 250,000 sq. ft. at a third of the cost of similarly scaled
facilities built at the same time.

This project was completed under the direction of Design Partner Leigh Breslau, AIA while at Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP.

Chicago, Illinois


2,850,000 SF

Project Team
Joe Gonazlez, Leigh Breslau, Robert Wesley, Nancy Abshire, Nancy Carreon

Fisher Dachs, Lawrence Kirkegaard, Claude Engle, Carbone Smolan Agency, Turner Construction

Best Renovation Award Friends of Downtown, 1998
Building Team Project of the Year Award: Merit Award Building Design & Construction, 1998
Distinguished Building Award AIA – Chicago Chapter, 1998
Excellence in Engineering ASHRAE – Illinois Chapter, 1996

Performing Arts

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