Home · Email · List of Projects · Project Sites and Links · Articles · Robert Davis Biography

Uihlein Hall - Marcus Center for the Performing Arts - Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Photo of Uihlein Hall

The Marcus Center for the Performing Arts is Wisconsin's premier arts venue. The Marcus Center is undergoing a multi-phase renovation with a value to date of $26.5 million. Renovation of the 2300-seat Uihlein Hall was completed in November, 1997.

Originally designed by Harry Weese and opened in 1969, the hall is used by the Marcus Center Broadway Series, Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, Milwaukee Ballet Company, Milwaukee Florentine Opera Company, First Stage Milwaukee, and a great variety of other productions.

In the auditorium the renovation included replacing the seating and auditorium flooring because they were worn out and also because the new acoustical design required more reflection and less absorption. Fabric seat backs and thick back pads were replaced with wood backs and thin pads, and the carpet was replaced with a handsome hard textured surface.

Robert Davis Inc. consulted on aesthetic considerations in the auditorium. Working with the team, Robert Davis Inc. suggested modifications that enhanced theatrical focus and intimacy, updated the design style of the room, and preserved its exceptional grace and power.

Suggestions included:
  • We recommended textured paint on large surfaces to prevent them from becoming lifeless.
  • We recommended painting the ceiling bright red to better reveal it's deep texture, to refer to the original red color scheme, to increase the contrast in this otherwise low-contrast room, and because it's very dramatic.
  • We recommended a color for the auditorium walls that almost exactly matches the color of the new orchestra shell, so when the shell is in view the stage and auditorium become intimately linked, as if they were one room.
  • We recommended a color for the chairs that is a little less formal than the original red upholstery, and is somewhat more modern, warmer, and more subtle. This color was nicknamed "cinnamon", but is a color that is intentionally hard to pin down. It's not a simple color, and that's why it succeeds in this room.
  • We recommended re-aiming the existing houselights to concentrate more light in the middle of the room. This makes the perimeter of the room a little darker, which aids focus and is much more dramatic.
  • We attended major meetings and assisted gently with the consensus. By adding comments only when needed we helped keep the consensus and thereby helped keep this large and complex project on schedule. This "midwife" role - we're not the mother or father, we just help push - is a way in which our clients use us creatively to help the project succeed.

Jim Read was a member of the original theater consulting team with the original theater consultant, George Izenour. In the renovation Mr. Read was theater consultant for the new orchestra shell and for renovation and modification of all stage equipment.

The Marcus Center for the Performing Arts borders Milwaukee's riverwalk system. The renovation planners took the opportunity to add a diminutive outdoor performance space for children's performances, called Kidz Stage. The project was awarded Mayor John O. Norquist's 2000 Design Award for its contribution to Milwaukee's urban fabric. Consulting on such a project is difficult because there are no precedents and no standard solutions. Robert Davis Inc. consulted on making the Kidz Stage functional and on making it a place both audiences and performers love to use.

Architect: Kahler Slater Architects, Inc. - Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Acoustician: Jaffe, Holden Acoustics, Inc. - Norwalk Connecticut

Home · List of Projects