With a flip of a shovel, construction officially began Friday on the Music and Communication Building in a ceremony attended by university President Morton Schapiro and deans of both schools.
Alumni, donors, students and faculty gathered at the top of the parking structure on the south end of campus that will be torn down to make way for the $117 million project, which is slated to be completed in September 2015, according to a statement from the university.
“This is a great day in the history of Northwestern University, and I think everyone knows why,” Schapiro said.
In his remarks, Schapiro called the Bienen School of Music one of the “preeminent music schools in the world,” and expressed gratitude that the students and faculty have a building to live up to that reputation.
He also lauded the work of the School of Communication, which will occupy the top floor of the five-story building. He called the building a “catalyst for a great future” of the school.
The building, designed by the Chicago architecture firm Goettsch Partners will have classrooms, performance spaces, studios, and faculty and administrative offices, according to statements from the university.
For many, this building is a long-awaited dream. In the 1970s, plans for a new building next to Regenstein were never put into action, according to The Daily.
In 2004, the university began plans for a music building on the south end of campus, which developed into plans for the building now being built. Financial setbacks also stalled announcements made in 2005. Construction, scheduled to begin in 2010, was further delayed by the recession.
Currently, Bienen primarily uses the Music Administration Building (MAB), Lutkin Hall and Regenstein Hall of Music, all of which Schapiro, laughing, said needed some upgrades.
He said that the new building is proof that while other universities are cutting funding for non-empirical sciences, Northwestern remains committed.
“The best way to show the world is physically,” he said. “It sends a signal to everyone that this is an institution that is not going to turn its back on some of the most fundamental aspects of human life and education.”
Following Schapiro’s remarks, Provost Dan Linzer spoke and thanked the many donors for making construction possible.
All of the speakers also touched on the difficulties of getting to ground-breaking day. Plans for the project were announced, but setbacks stalled construction until this summer.
Bienen Dean Toni-Marie Montgomery also voiced her excitement about the long-awaited building.
“Many of you are aware of the African proverb ‘It takes a village to raise a child,’” Montgomery said. “In our case, it takes a university to build a music building.”
After Montgomery spoke, School of Communication Dean Barbara O’Keefe expressed her enthusiasm for the project, also thanking the administration and donors.
“This is the best gift ever given to the School of Communication,” she said.
Following their speeches, Schapiro, Montgomery and O’Keefe officially broke ground and posed for photos. Refreshments and hors d’oeuvres were served for attendees.
As the plans for construction progress, Schapiro said he hopes the building will bring more positive changes for the university.
“I think we will look back on this day over the course of not just years but decades,” he said. “That this is one of the greatest, transformative moments in the history of Northwestern University.”