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Woollen, Evans Clowes Memorial Hall, 1960 – 1963


Evans Woollen II is one of Indiana’s premier architects, best known for buildings such as the New Harmony Inn, the monastery at St. Meinrad, the Indiana University Musical Arts Center, the Indianapolis Federal Building, and Clowes Memorial Hall. Woollen graduated from the Hotchkiss School and received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Yale University, where he studied under renowned modernist architects Louis Kahn and Philip Johnson. He worked for Johnson for one year and with John Johansen, of Connecticut. In 1955, he opened his first office on Monument Circle in downtown Indianapolis. In his early work he focused on private homes and banking facilities. His firm, Woollen Molzan and Partners, designed the new wing of the Indianapolis-Marion County Public Library’s Central branch, opened in 2007.

  • Clowes Memorial Hall, 1960–1963
  • Butler University, Indianapolis
  • Keywords: architecture, concert halls, limestone
  • Subjects: auditoriums, towers

In 1960, Butler University commissioned Evans Woollen to build Clowes Memorial Hall. Designed and built in association with his former mentor John Johansen, it was completed in 1963. This was Woollen’s first major commission and its success led him to design other performing arts buildings throughout the United States. The building’s limestone exterior draws the eye up and emphasizes the suggestion of towers, a reflection of the university’s 1920s Neo-Gothic administration buildings nearby. The concrete is carried through the interior with exposed panels that intersect laterally. The grand foyer is 60 feet high and 24,000 square feet, and the interior stage area is 9 stories tall. A unique feature of the auditorium is that there is no center aisle. Seats are 40 inches back to back and the rearmost seat in the house is only 113 feet from the stage. Because the building houses a 2,182-seat, multipurpose performing space— originally designed to be the home of the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra—the architects paid special attention to the acoustics in the interior space.

Some Points To Consider

  • Explain to students that Woollen had to consider the functional needs (acoustics) of Clowes Hall more than the appearance of the building. An earlier architect, Louis Sullivan, influenced architecture with the theory that form follows function. Have students research some local buildings and decide if they are functional. (Art 4.1.2)
  • Provide students some photographs of the inside of Clowes Memorial Hall. Do they think the space is functional? Take a field trip to a concert or other event at Clowes and ask students to evaluate the sensory qualities there. (Art. 4.3.2)