“Welcome to ASU!”
In 1957, ASU past President Grady Gammage had a vision to create a distinct university auditorium on the campus of Arizona State University (ASU). He called on close friend and famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright to assist with the project. As luck would have, Wright had a design prepared for an opera house in Baghdad, Iraq that did not come to fruition that he decided to use for this theater. 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. Neither Wright nor Gammage lived to see the transformation of the blueprints, but their vision instantly became an iconic venue under the new direction of R.E. McKee Company from El Paso, Texas to complete the construction. In 1962, Grady Gammage, Jr. turned the first shovel of dirt in the official groundbreaking. Construction of the $2.46 million building took 25 months. ASU 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 for unamplified performance, and the floating 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. ASU Gammage celebrated its grand opening with great fanfare on September 18, 1964. Under the baton of legendary conductor Eugene Ormandy, The Philadelphia Orchestra filled the hall with a history making first performance. The first Broadway production was in 1964 and was Camelot. For the next 30 years, ASU Gammage was host to many national and international dance companies including Alvin Alley Dance Company, Boston Ballet, Martha Graham Dance Company, Joffrey Ballet and Broadway productions as well as legendary musicians including B.B. King, Neil Diamond, Bruce Springsteen, Johnny Cash and Elton John.
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Asu Grady Gammage Auditorium
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