Case Studies

UD Performing Arts Center: A Wave to the Future

  • Written by: UD Performing Arts Center: A Wave to the Future
  • Produced by: UD Performing Arts Center: A Wave to the Future
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On a foggy, cool January morning, the University of Dubuque laid quiet. A live video feed overlooking the near-complete performing arts center construction project showed but a few pedestrians and some construction vehicles. The feed is set up to show two angles on campus in order to document the progress as the $30 million center is built.

The private co-ed university and its 1,600 students are located in Dubuque, Iowa, a small city on the banks of the Mississippi River. The university is affiliated with the Presbyterian Church and offers undergraduate, graduate and theological seminary programs. The university works to integrate liberal arts curriculum with theological education following the Presbyterian Church’s message.

The project is listed as the university’s top priority on its vision for the future. Other capital improvements include new residence halls to accommodate for growing student enrollment.

Local general contractor Conlon Construction Company (Conlon) is the project manager for the approximately 80,000-square foot building, known as The Wave. Conlon has done extensive work for local retail stores, hospitals and colleges, but nothing quite like the university’s UD Performing Arts Center.

Building Up the Arts

After years of extensive planning, the university broke ground on the performing arts center May 6, 2011. The center is expected to further the university’s mission to develop well-rounded, well-informed and culturally literate students. The facility will become a hub for the university’s students, faculty and staff, as well as the community.

The university’s theme for the center is “art by osmosis.” The hope is, as people visit the center, all visitors will encounter art in its various forms, whether it’s hung artwork or performances in the theater.

During the design stages, the university worked with Conlon and the project’s architect to create a building that blends with the existing architecture on campus. Bound by Grace, McCormick and Bennett streets, the center stands prominently and connects the north and south portions of campus. Horizontal lines meet vertical lines alongside the building to mimic staffs on sheet music, while archways take on a certain artistic flow. The fact that many walls in the building are curved proved to be a challenge for the contractor, but a challenge the team at Conlon will overcome.

Once complete, the building will serve many purposes. It will provide gathering space for students to study or meet with peers. It will also welcome the public as a performance venue, gallery space, space for offices and hospitality.

The performance hall features a 1,000-seat auditorium and lobby, plus a 200-seat black-box theater space. The university hopes to attract local, regional and national acts to have music, dance and theater performances in addition to public lectures. The large auditorium is designed to accommodate a wide variety of performances and even the university’s baccalaureate ceremonies. The black-box theater will provide a space for smaller performances or lectures, with a ring gallery to offer expanded seating and backstage support.

The building also includes a café and common space. There is space for open mic performances, a general and convenience store, an ice cream parlor and lounge, plus offices for faculty and student life. Group and individual study rooms will be available for students, as well as practice and rehearsal rooms. Some classes will also be held in the new building.

Community Integration

Founded in 1852, the University of Dubuque has a long history in the city. Creating this building is not only a way to enhance the campus, but give back to the community. The public will be welcome to enjoy many performances in the space, plus view art on display.

A significant display venue will be used to promote artwork, but also history. The university intends to create a permanent exhibit of artifacts. The exhibit will promote the university’s longstanding history. Archival items will finally be on display to honor the university’s heritage.

Most of the UD Performing Arts Center’s exterior is complete. The contractors are working steadily to complete interior elements and final touches. With Conlon Construction Company applying its project management expertise, it is expected work on the project will be complete by March 2013 in time for the University of Dubuque’s spring commencement.

Published on: March 28, 2013

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