Council of Independent Colleges Historic Campus Architecture Project


Mary Baker Russell Music Center

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Institution Name: Pacific Lutheran University
Original/Historic Place Name: Mary Baker Russell Music Center
Location on Campus:
Date(s) of Construction:
1997original construction Zimmer Gunsul Frasca Partnership
Designer: Zimmer Gunsul Frasca Partnership
Type of Place: Individual building
Style: Contemporary (Glossary)
Significance: culture, education
Narrative: see below
References: see below
Foundation: concrete with reinforced steel
Walls: concrete, brick veneer
Roof: asphalt tab shingles
1997-present (2006)auditorium
1997-present (2006)academic department building (music)

As early as 1894, when Pacific Lutheran University appointed the first faculty member (a music professor), music has been central to PLU education. The Music department has grown to 52 full-time and part-time faculty members and has achieved national stature, and the touring choirs have gained a world-class reputation with critics, choir conductors, and choral composers. The building (43,937 square feet) recognizes the considerable contribution to the life of the University. Located on a 1.4 acre wooded hillside, the building's close proximity to Ingram Hall fosters communication within the three departments constituting the School of the Arts. The music center spans from the upper to the lower campus, providing a bridge between the two levels.

The showcase of the Music Center is the George Lagerquist Concert Hall (seating 534). Built in the style of a European concert hall, it is critically acclaimed for its acoustics, rich wood appointment, and intimate seating. On the front wall of the concert hall is the Gottfried and Mary Fuchs organ built by Tacoma organ builder Paul Fritts.

The massive east windows of the building, reaching three stories at one point, display an installation by Tacoma-native and glass artist Dale Chihuly. Titled "PLU Rose," the thirty by thirty glass works continue the theme of PLU's central icon (and the basis for its corporate logo), the Rose Window. The Music Center also houses an early music studio, rehearsal halls, a music education lab, and a percussion studio and theory/keyboard lab.

An internal open landscaped courtyard is the focal point of the mid-level and of the performance and teaching spaces that surround it. Its design incorporates an amphitheater-like setting with access possible to all three levels of the center. The open seating of this amphitheater is used for informal performances during spring, summer, and fall.


Casper, Dale E. Academic Architecture: Journal Articles on Creation, Maintenance, and Preservation, 1980-1985. Monticello, IL: Vance Bibliographies, 1986.

"Music Center, Pacific Lutheran University, Perkins & Will." Progressive Architecture 65 (January 1984): 88-91.

Nordquist, Philip A. Educating for Service: Pacific Lutheran University, 1890-1990. Tacoma, WA: Pacific Lutheran University, 1990.

Schnackenberg, Walter C. The Lamp and the Cross: Sagas of Pacific Lutheran University, from 1890-1965. Tacoma, WA: Pacific Lutheran University, 1965.


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Last update: November 2006