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University of Wisconsin–Madison

Memorial Union

Project Description

On this project, the architectural challenge was to bring the 82 year-old Wisconsin Memorial Union up to current design standards and student expectations without interfering with the building’s historical character and the sentimental attachments of its users and alumni. Through the years renovations to the building have been piecemeal, and time has taken its toll both in terms of systems and functionality. As so often happens as a building ages, new functions are fitted into any available space without regard to adjacencies or physical needs. These deficiencies all needed to be corrected.

Project Stats


Madison, Wisc.

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Date of Completion


Project Gallery

The Process

The scope of the work for Moody Nolan and Uihlein Wilson Architects includes additional space needs, updated meeting rooms and improved food service operations, and a primary focus on improving the facilities two historic theaters — the 1,300-seat Wisconsin Union Theater and the experimental Play Circle Theater. These theaters require a complete updating of their technology and improved seating and lobby spaces as well as a total aesthetic make over. Live drama, music of all sorts and lectures are typical of the events in these venues so particular attention is required for acoustics and lighting.

This project is being completed in two phases, beginning with the theater wing. Several sensitive additions—underground, at grade and vertical above existing space—are required to meet the programmatic needs. These additions to this historic structure all had to be approved by the Wisconsin Historical Society.