The Detroit Music Hall—completed in 1928 by Smith, Hinchman, & Grylls; a firm that designed much of Detroit’s skyline—is a Motor City landmark. The Beaux Arts edifice, originally called Wilson Theatre, turned 100 years old in 2019 after its near demolition in the 1960s. Starting in the 1970s, Detroiters successfully raised $6.8 million to restore the music building that’s hosted Dizzy Gillespie, Ella Fitzgerald, Duke Ellington, Billie Holiday, and Charlie Parker to its original glory.
Following a remarkable rebirth, the award-winning New York firm Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects (TWBTA) is designing a $122 million addition to the Detroit Music Hall, Music Hall Center. The addition will yield a seven-story, 108,000-square-feet expansion on the lot adjacent to the existing 1928 building.
“The expansion will welcome the world to Detroit,” said Vince Paul, president and artistic director of Detroit Music Hall. “Through this new development, we honor our musical legends and create opportunities for the music legends of tomorrow. This portal to the people not only engages our community, but will encourage tourists from all over the world to visit and celebrate their musical heroes.”
The forthcoming Music Hall Center will have a state-of-the-art, 24,000-square-foot, 1,900-seat concert hall; an 1,800-square-foot, 200-seat recital hall with lush finishes and diffused natural lighting; leasable office space for industry professionals; a public welcome center with access to arts and cultural programming; and a rooftop restaurant that offers expansive views of downtown Detroit. Music Hall Center will also house a world-class music academy for some 5,000 students currently enrolled in Detroit music programs.
TWBTA designed an expressive exterior that will light up the Detroit night sky with customizable, colorful, low-light LEDs. The proposed facade features a unique perforated metal rainscreen/sunscreen clad with shimmering metallic accents. Music Hall Center will be crowned with a cantilevered, chamfered canopy that hovers out over the sidewalks and alleyway between it and the existing building. A 4,000-square-foot alleyway between the buildings will be activated by generous outdoor seating, space for public performances and art installations, and community events.
For Tod Williams, cofounder of TWBTA, the landmark project in his hometown is of particular significance. “The experience of growing up in and around Detroit has followed and influenced me throughout my life and career,” Williams said in a press statement. “It is a tremendous gift for our studio and team to work with Vince Paul, the Music Hall staff, Board, and our excellent contractor Barton Malow, among many others, on this once-in-a-lifetime project at the heart of downtown’s cultural corridor. By doubling its capacity and amplifying its activity and offerings, Music Hall will be an unparalleled destination and a spectacular asset for Detroit’s future.”
Upon completion, Music Hall Center is expected to create 446 new jobs, nearly a hundred new contracts for independent vendors, and over 5,000 artist opportunities. It’s set to open for the public in fall 2026.