Hancher Auditorium - University of Iowa

Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects as Architects

Widely recognized for commissioning new works of dance and music, the Hancher reaches audiences beyond the University of Iowa. The new home for this renowned institution will be on a hilltop overlooking the Iowa River, on the main route into Iowa City—a prominent location for the state’s premier performing arts presenter.


With sweeping horizontal forms that echo the landscape and the curve of the river, the design draws from the building’s natural surroundings. Parallel forms cantilever at the south end of the building, creating overhangs for the lobby and a second-level terrace. Floor-to-ceiling glass walls below the cantilevers will offer views to the campus and the river, and will be seen from Hancher Bridge and points south. Lobby spaces and offices will have shaded sunlight during the day.


The building's form, massing, color, and material will complement the adjacent Levitt Center for University Advancement, a limestone-clad asymmetrical composition of geometric forms. Cladding on the Hancher’s main structure is a stainless steel shingle with a brushed satin finish. The rehearsal room, a cubic form, is clad in light-colored masonry. Together, the rehearsal room and the Levitt Center’s rotunda will frame Park Road, becoming a gateway. A new drive from the tree-lined road will be the main entrance to the theater lobby.


The main venue, a proscenium theater with 1,800, will host music, dance, opera and theatrical performances. In addition, the building will contain spaces for rehearsals and teaching, offices, a scene shop and a costume shop.


Designed with a highly efficient envelope and incorporating sustainable design strategies related to the site and to building systems and controls, the building will achieve a LEED rating of at least Silver. As a replacement for the original Hancher, damaged by flooding in 2008, the building is also designed to 500-year-flood criteria.

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Project Credits
Landscape Architecture
Associate Architect
Graphics and Wayfinding Consultant
LEED/Environmental Consultant
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