Overture Center for the Arts+ expand detail
Madison, Wisconsin, USA
388,000 square feet / 36,000 square meters
The Overture Center for the Arts brings nearly all of Madison’s arts organizations to a single place — a full city block near the state capitol and the University of Wisconsin. This vast undertaking to create a unified arts center comprised the renovation of two theaters, the expansion of an art museum and the design of a major multi-purpose venue. Incorporating existing venues and sensitively scaled lobbies, the complex fits comfortably into downtown Madison.
The centerpiece of the project is the new Overture Hall. Seen from downtown, Overture Hall is a crisp geometric form in limestone and glass with a grand lobby that extends over the sidewalk to shelter the entrance. Inside the lobby, light wood ceilings, limestone walls and travertine flooring all help create a warm and serene atmosphere. In the auditorium, a cascade of softly lit balconies and an undulating acoustic ceiling define a contemporary space. Unobstructed sightlines, excellent acoustics, and state-of-the-art technical support enable flawless performances for music, theater and dance.
By integrating existing venues and elements of historic buildings, the complex maintains the pedestrian-friendly character of downtown. The circa 1920s stone façade of the former Yost’s Department Store was retained as an entrance to the entire Overture Center. At the center of the complex, it links the glass façades of Overture Hall and the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art. A new glass dome brings sunlight to all levels of the building. Inside is a four-story rotunda with art galleries off the main lobby. On the lowest is the Rotunda Stage, an indoor amphitheater.
The two existing theaters were substantially renovated. The Capitol Theater retains original details including its Grand Barton Organ, ornate ceiling, wall niches, proscenium arch, and chandelier lighting. To create a more intimate and technically improved 800-seat venue, some seating was removed and replaced by a new lobby in the character of the original theater. The interior of the Isthmus Playhouse, now a 350-seat thrust theater known as The Playhouse, was almost entirely redesigned. Three flexible black box theaters were also added.
The Madison Art Center, renamed the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art, was also expanded. Designed as a clear iconic form, the museum is a landmark for the principal flatiron corner of the block. The museum’s triangular four-story glass lobby is a prismatic form visible along State Street. The monumental scale of its glass stair recalls the traditional entrances of museums around the world.