Located on the Tempe campus of Arizona State University, ASU Gammage is among the largest university-based presenters of performing arts in the world. ASU Gammage is the home theater of the Broadway Across America – Arizona series and the ASU Gammage Beyond series. Its mission is to connect communities through artistic excellence and educational outreach. ASU Gammage is an historic hall designed by internationally renowned architect, Frank Lloyd Wright.
Renowned architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s final design for an opera house most likely would not be still standing today if it was built in its originally proposed location – Baghdad, Iraq. Instead, Wright’s final design – ASU Gammage – became a multifunctional performing arts facility at Arizona State University (ASU).
In 1957, then ASU President Grady Gammage had a mission to create a distinct university auditorium. He called on close friend and famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright to assist with the project, who had the Iraq design already in mind. During a tour of the campus, Wright took a liking to an athletic field and said, "I believe this is the site. The structure should be circular in design and yes, with outstretched arms, saying ‘Welcome to ASU!’"
Wright worked on the sketches for the building during the last two years of his life. His most trusted aide, William Welsey Peters, brought his plans to finished form. Wright served as architect and the building’s bold design is his.
Neither Wright nor Gammage lived to see the transformation of the blueprints. Wright and Gammage died in 1959. In 1962, R.E. McKee Company from El Paso, N.M. was hired for construction and four days later, Grady Gammage, Jr. turned the first shovel of dirt in the official groundbreaking.
Construction on the $2.46 million building took 25 months. Gammage stands 80 feet high, eight stories by normal building standards, and measures 300 by 250 feet. Two pedestrian bridges add to the feeling of vastness, and extend 200 feet like welcoming arms. ASU Gammage was completed in September 1964. ASU Gammage is the only public building in Arizona designed by Wright.
The 3,000-seat performance hall offers three levels of seating, with the furthest seat only 115 feet from the stage. The acoustics are well balanced, and the design of the grand tier assures an even flow of sound to every seat.
The stage can be adapted for grand opera, musical and dramatic productions, or for symphony concerts, organ recitals, chamber music recitals, solo performances and lectures. The remarkable versatility of the stage is enhanced by a collapsible orchestra shell which, when fully extended, can accommodate a full orchestra, chorus and pipe organ. The shell is telescoped into a specially designed storage area when not in use.
The first event was held September 18, 1964. The Philadelphia Orchestra under the baton of Eugene Ormandy filled the hall. Since then many national and international dance companies and Broadway plays have taken the stage as well hundreds of well-known celebrities, musicians and performers. ASU Gammage was also host to the 2004 Presidential Debate.
Today, ASU Gammage is among the largest university-based presenters of performing arts in the world. ASU Gammage is the home theater of the Broadway Across America – Arizona series and the ASU Gammage Beyond series.