Iowa City, IA

Hancher Auditorium is widely recognized as one of Iowa’s premier performing arts centers. Eight years after the original building was destroyed by flooding, the University celebrated the opening of a new, 188,000 square foot replacement facility in September 2016. CBB designed the lighting for the public spaces of the building, including a three-story lobby and atrium, an 1,800-seat proscenium theater, a black box theater, amenity spaces such as the performers’ lounge, green room, café and gift shop, and all public circulation areas.

The lighting solutions highlight the pastoral setting reflected in the architecture, while imparting an awe-inspiring user experience. Meticulously arrayed custom downlights connect the building’s exterior to its interior, drawing patrons into a bright, soaring atrium. Within the main performance hall, monumental custom fixtures create an impressive ceiling plane, while innovative front-of-balcony lighting makes the house sparkle and glow. All lighting is controlled with an automated dimming system.

The theater’s lighting design expresses the synergy between building and landscape, creates a welcoming and stimulating environment, and achieves the goal of giving the University and community a cultural hub unlike any they have experienced before.


  • IALD Award of Excellence

  • IES Illumination Award of Merit

  • The Architect’s Newspaper Best of Design Awards – Honorable Mention, Exterior Lighting

  • LIT Awards – Winner, Exterior Architectural Lighting

  • LIT Awards – Winner, Energy-Saving Lighting


Pelli Clarke & Partners / OPN Architects


Jeff Goldberg/Esto; Bill Adams Photography