Hancher Auditorium Replacement Facility at the University of Iowa in Iowa City. Photos: Justin Cline / Thornton Tomasetti.

University of Iowa, Hancher Auditorium Replacement Facility



For more than 30 years, The University of Iowa’s Hancher Auditorium served as Iowa City’s cultural landmark. When a 500-year flood hit the area in 2008, the auditorium was one of the thousands of structures damaged by the record-high river waters. Thornton Tomasetti provided structural design, façade engineering design, and construction support services for the stunning new replacement facility, which features a 40-inch-thick hydrostatic slab designed to resist future floods.

The 185,000-square-foot performing arts facility holds 1,800 seats and features a three-level main lobby surrounded by a façade of stainless steel shingles and glass. A 70-foot canopy cantilevers over the south entrance. Iowa City’s temperature differentials typically would necessitate the use of a visually unappealing and maintenance-intensive expansion joint on the building’s broad 500-foot-long eastern façade. The designers analyzed the issue and defined parameters for a solution, then worked with the entire team to find a combination of structural support, skin design and operational guidelines that controls thermal movement, without sacrificing aesthetic priorities.

To assist with the project’s sustainability goals, temperature fluctuations within a cantilever soffit space were analyzed to verify that the soffit’s structural steel members are within a permissible temperature range. The team provided recommendations to reduce thermal stress on other structural steel members and analyzed two-dimensional heat transfer through the soffit.

The project’s expedited schedule and sculptural form added levels of complexity to its design. Early steel bid packages necessitated that the team coordinate design criteria, equipment choices and loading requirements, which has increased the quality of the construction documents, and reduced the potential for coordination issues.

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