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The Future of Powell Hall

News + Updates

Project Updates

April 5, 2024

Part of the expansion and renovation of Powell Hall, the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra's home, includes infrastructure changes. Recently, new cooling towers were lifted onto the roof of the backstage addition. These cooling towers will help regulate the temperature of the building, creating a comfortable space for audiences and artists.

Previously located near the concert hall, the design of the expansion moved the cooling towers and other mechanical systems to the expansion to reduce ambient noise in the auditorium and better organize infrastructure equipment in one area.

New cooling towers is one of many infrastructure updates in the expansion renovation of Powell Hall. The fire protection system will be expanded, new electrical and HVAC will be added, and plumbing enhancements are among other upgrades focused on making the concert experience safe, accessible, and welcoming for all.

March 21, 2024

The expansion and renovation of Powell Hall reached a milestone today, as the institution marked one year since ground was broken on the project. In that year, the backstage expansion—which will house needed artist amenities including a new music library, lounges, dressing rooms, and media suites—has taken shape. Meanwhile, the walls of the Education and Learning Center—which will support rehearsals, education programs welcoming tens of thousands of students yearly, and other community events—have been erected. Infrastructure work to modernize the existing building has taken place. And in the current venue, renovations include removing the seats, preparing the building for new amenities, and work to preserve the historic aesthetic.

Take a look at the progress from the air:

March 1, 2024

The renovation of Powell Hall's auditorium took a major step forward recently when crews erected scaffolding to begin a major refresh. Scaffolds rising seven floors from the orchestra level will give experts access to the walls and ceilings for detailed cleaning and repainting work of the intricate cream and gold interior.

Once the renovation is complete, the aesthetic of the auditorium will keep the same classic look attendees have come to appreciate.

While the repainting of the auditorium begins, the new Education and Learning Center now has walls and floor. This cornerstone of the expansion of Powell Hall will host rehearsals for the SLSO's two resident choruses and Youth Orchestra, education programs, outreach events, and other community-centered events. The 35-foot-high ceilings will create an acoustically-rich space for performances.

February 26, 2024

Much of the backstage expansion of Powell Hall is now visible—facilities that include a new Education and Learning Center and amenities for musicians and visiting artists. 

Now, parts of the front of house expansion are coming into view as construction crews progress on that part of the project. 

Two elevators will be added to the new lobby space, tripling the number of elevators for audiences. The first-floor elevator shafts have been poured and work continues on the second floor of the elevator shaft. Critical to accessibility, the elevators will offer more connection points to the auditorium for all.

Shear walls and columns for the new lobby space have been poured. This new lobby will add much-needed space for box office, accessible restrooms, other amenities and an area to congregate before and after concerts. The new lobby features curved walls with inspiration drawn from the shape of a violin by lead architecture design firm Snøhetta.

January 8, 2024

2024 began with a milestone in the renovation of Powell Hall’s auditorium. Construction crews began the concrete overpour of the main floor. Once complete, the floor will be reshaped and include a new cross-auditorium aisle with additional ADA-accessible seating.

The renovated auditorium will have new lighting and seats, bringing the house to a comfortable and acoustically maximal size of 2,150 seats with 22 ADA accessible seats. The seats will look similar to the ones installed in 1967 but will be slightly larger and new row configurations will provide more leg room throughout the hall, especially on the balcony level. The balcony will also feature a softer slope with additional railing and safety measures that will provider greater access to more patrons.

December 15, 2023

Watch as the floor for the SLSO's new Education and Learning Center is poured in the video below.

December 7, 2023

In a milestone for the expansion and renovation of Powell Hall, construction crews poured the first floor of the Education and Learning Center at the southeast corner of the building. Sheer walls are also rising around the new expansion.

Connecting to the existing building, the Education and Learning Center will become the new home for the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra's education and community programming, which engaged more than 330,000 students and teachers in the 2022/2023 season. The space, which will open with the building in 2025, will also serve as a rehearsal space for the St. Louis Symphony Chorus, St. Louis Symphony IN UNISON Chorus, and St. Louis Symphony Youth Orchestra, reducing stress on the Emerson Concert Stage.

The multi-functional space will also host educator trainings, cross-artistic collaborations, and other community events.

November 8, 2023

As the backstage expansion of Powell Hall progresses (the walls and floors now visible to passersby), the outline of the new entrance and visitors' services expansion is taking shape. Positioned south of the existing building, this part of the expansion will welcome audiences in through a dramatic glass arch, allowing natural light to flood the space. In addition to providing more space for gathering, this part of the expansion will provide additional restrooms, a coat check, a new box office, and concessions on each level. A spiral staircase will provide entrance into the auditorium on all levels.

The shape of the new space was inspired by the elegant curves found throughout the music world—from the arch of the proscenium to the graceful lines of string instruments.

While the backstage expansion of Powell Hall is now in full view, work has begun on the foundation of the new entrance.

October 25, 2023

No, those silver sleeves aren't new stools added to the Powell Hall auditorium! The construction team continues coring holes in the auditorium floor for HVAC diffusers. The sleeves on top of the existing floor will allow air to pass through the new concrete poured on the orchestra level floor. When complete, the new concrete overpour will reduce the slope of the floor, making it easier to navigate for people with mobility challenges.

Reducing the floor steepenss is one of several upgrades to the safety and accessibility of the auditorium, including adding handrails and more accessible seating options.

Sleeves fixed to the auditorium will allow air to pass through HVAC diffusers as a concrete overpour is added, softening the slope of thefloor.

September 26, 2023

The first floor of the new backstage expansion has been poured and renovation continues on Powell Hall's interior. An unseen milestone recently occurred which paves the way for construction on the new lobby expansion.

Strongbacks, or I-Beams, were recently installed in the basement of Powell Hall's south wall. These steel structures brace the existing foundation wall where new holes were cored for the blue duct—the underground duct system that will be used to heat and cool the new front of house space. Crews from Acme Erectors, a local company, installed the beams earlier this month.

September 1, 2023

On August 30, SLSO staff took a behind-the-scenes tour of the Powell Hall construction site. While the new backstage expansion is beginning to take shape, crews are hard at work deconstructing parts of the existing building as we prepare to renovate the space with upgraded amenities for audiences and artists. Everything you love about the current building will remain—the beautiful chandeliers, the ornate details, and the exceptional acoustics.

Walls have become visible at the new backstage expansion, future home to artist services including a music library, dressing rooms, media suites, and instrument storage.
Crews were hard at work pouring the back of house expansion floor.
The Wightman Grand Foyer looks mostly the same. The stone floors are carefully protected during renovation.
The outline of a new cross-auditorium walkway on the floor level is visible, which will eventually allow easier movement in and out of the hall and provide space for more ADA seating.
The seats have been removed in the auditorium to make way for larger, more comfortable seats.
In the basement, new under slab plumbing has been installed, replacing critical aging infrastructure.
The office tower, once partitioned by doors and walls, is now a mostly open space.
The area that formerly held the Box Office is open to the rest of the building now, future home for a new bistro.
Crews poured the basement floor of the backstage expansion on August 30.

August 9, 2023

This week brought a milestone for the expansion and renovation of Powell Hall. After months of excavation, drilling, and site preparation, the construction team poured the basement slab for the new back of house expansion. This part of the expansion will contain musicians and guest artist services, including a new music library, practice rooms, and recording suites, maintainingg the SLSO as an international destination for the world's top artists.

Meanwhile, underground plumbing work is taking place throughout the space as the renovation prepares to add many more restrooms and concession areas.

July 18, 2023

The expansion and renovation of historic Powell Hall presses onward. As the backstage expansion begins to take shape, the construction team started excavation for the new entry hall and guest services building. Once complete, the expanded entry will transform the visitor experience, providing much needed space for gathering, plus expanded amenities, including more restrooms, additional bars and concession areas, a coat check, and additional elevators.

The SLSO is preserving the building's current foyer, keeping the stunning architecture and details that have made Powell Hall a civic icon.

July 5, 2023

Recently, Powell Hall renovation work made its way into the basement of the current building, where construction crews removed all three of the current boilers that have heated the historic landmark for decades.

The boilers will all be replaced with new units, which will greatly improve the efficiency of the building, save money for the institution, and be more friendly to the environment.

June 16, 2023

As summer kicks into high gear, activity at the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra's Powell Hall construction site continues to heat up. Foundation walls have begun to rise for the new back of house expansion, and demolition work continues on the building's exterior. Meanwhile, renovation work has begun on the interior of the building, including the preparation of the auditorium with the removal of the iconic red seats. Throughout the project, the SLSO is partnering with several local organizations to repurpose parts of Powell Hall, giving new life to these pieces of history in the St. Louis community.

Learn more about two of those partnerships in the video below.

June 8, 2023

Warren Sign, a St. Louis-based business, removed the iconic signs that illuminated the way to the parking lot east of Powell Hall for countless concert attendees. They were designed by Kiku Obata, daughter of legendary architect Gyo Obata, for Grand Center to increase visibility of its parking lots. Each lot had the same design but a different color. For years, the lot near Powell Hall one was known as the “blue lot” until the SLSO acquired the parking lot from Grand Center in 2020.

As part of the expansion and renovation of Powell Hall, the SLSO's parking lot will be redesigned to promote better traffic flow, as well as provide more ADA spaces, better lighting, pedestrian walkways, and green spaces.

The iconic signs, meanwhile, will soon find a new home at another St. Louis icon: the City Museum. The SLSO donated the signs to the landmark, which will erect the signs at its downtown property.

The SLSO's Park signs were removed on June 8 and were donated to the City Museum.

June 2, 2023

As construction progresses on the backstage expansion of Powell Hall, decisions about the new front of house expansion–which includes a new lobby and Education and Learning Center–continue. On June 2, SLSO leaders and project representatives–including architects from Snøhetta, the project's lead architecture firm–reviewed a mock up of bricks for the façade of the new entry lobby. The mock up depicted possible colors and textures of the brick considered in relation to Powell Hall's current brick façade, which will not change. The façade's aesthetic appeal was carefully selected to complement Powell Hall, which has been of the National Register of Historic Places since 2001.

The SLSO has hired John J. Smith Masonry, a local company, for the project's masonry needs. The samples will be refined over the next few months until masonry work begins on the back of house expansion later this year. Experts masons will lay by hand each brick on the new lobby, which features elegant curves reminiscent of the shape of a violin.

June 1, 2023

While Powell Hall's auditorium will look mostly the same once renovated, there will be at least one noticeable change: new seats. Larger, more comfortable seats will fill the space, providing additional leg room. The seats will share a similar aesthetic to the original seats (we're keeping that iconic red), which were nearly entirely removed by June 1.

With the seats removed, renovations can begin on the interior of Powell Hall, including relocating noisy mechanical systems away from the auditorium, softening the steepness of the balcony, adding additional safety measures, and creating a more accessible layout for people with mobility needs.

May 19, 2023

Since the final concert at Powell Hall as you know it on May 14, there has been a buzz of activity as the staff moves out of the hall and the building is prepared for renovation work in the interior.

Excavation continued to the east of the building and piers were drilled to prepare for the new basement foundation. The first phase of construction includes the erection of a new backstage building to provide updated and new amenities for SLSO musicians and guest artists.

With public events completed for the season, work inside picked up tempo: librarians packed up all of the institution's precious music, staff members loaded boxes and moved furniture to temporary offices, autographed headshots were carefully prepped for storage, work on and around the Emerson Concert Stage accelerated, and some of the iconic red velvet auditorium seats were removed.

See more:

May 14, 2023

Assistant Conductor Stephanie Childress led the St. Louis Symphony Youth Orchestra for the final concert in Powell Hall before the expansion and renovation project closes the historic venue until 2025. At the final concert, the SLSO celebrated the talents of these talented student musicians, as well as our dedicated front of house team, who work tirelessly to make concert experiences safe and welcoming.

When it reopens in 2025, Powell Hall will still feel elegant—we’re keeping the chandeliers, red velvet, and special details we all love—but will be more accessible, have more amenities for audiences and musicians, and also will more fully connect with the community through new spaces including thededicated Education and Learning Center.

In the meantime, the SLSO will be performing in venues throughout St. Louis. You can learn more about those locations and our 2023/2024 season here.

April 11, 2023

The SLSO will remain busy during the expansion and renovation of Powell Hall, performing at our two primary "home away from home" venues—Touhill Performing Arts Center and Stifel Theatre—as well as at other locations throughout the St. Louis region, including the Sheldon Concert Hall, Lindenwood University’s J. Scheidegger Center for the Arts, and the Pulitzer Arts Foundation. We also will continue toshare music in schools, houses of worship, and other public spaces—including Forest Park.

New banners at Powell Hall serve as a reminder that you can still hear the music you love performed by your SLSO over the next two years.

New banners were installed at Powell Hall.

April 3, 2023

While the orchestra acts an ambassador for the St. Louis region in Europe, construction work has ramped up at Powell Hall. Excavation work has begun on the new backstage expansion, which will provide much-needed amenities for orchestra members and guest artists, to maintain the orchestra as an international destination for musicians.

Meanwhile, SLSO staff are moving out of Powell Hall, part of a months-long process to carefully save and preserve the orchestra’s vibrant history. One item that received special attention is Music Director Stéphane Denève’s piano.

See more:

March 21, 2023

After years of planning with an international design team of experts, the expansion and renovation of Powell Hall is underway. On Monday, March 21, BSI Constructors—the project’s construction manager—began loading in heavy equipment as the orchestra prepared to depart for a four-country, five-city European tour.

BSI will fence off the site in preparation for the first phase of the project, which includes excavating to the east of the current building to prepare for laying the foundation of the new backstage expansion.