Madison’s premier cultural center is home to theater, opera, and dance companies, the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art, and the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts, and Letters. The building incorporates historic facades—the French neo-Renaissance Yost Building (1923, Frank M. Riley) and the Spanish Baroque Capitol Theater (1928, Rapp and Rapp)—with a modernist, triangular structure in a not entirely successful design. In doing so, the historic streetscape’s pedestrian scale was retained. Abundant windows along the street allow pedestrians to see into the welcoming spaces. And yet the poorly proportioned, oddly shaped glass dome above the Yost Building is unfortunate. The modernist structure that occupies the rest of the block terminates in a four-story glass prow containing a grand staircase to second-floor galleries and a rooftop sculpture garden.
Entrance to the center is through the former Yost Building, which opens into a multistory rotunda lit by the glass dome. The Overture Hall lobby features the same French Montségur limestone used on the exterior, sycamore wall panels, and Turkish travertine marble floors. The 2,250-seat concert hall has wave-like perforated ceiling panels to create drama while providing outstanding acoustics. At the center of the building, the interior of the former Capitol Theater has been reconfigured for better acoustics and sight lines, yet retains its opulent Art Deco interior.
By integrating older, still usable landmarks with dramatic contemporary forms, Overture Center is a characteristic product of its time. Reuse, recycling (75 percent of materials from demolished buildings on the block were recycled), and redevelopment of the core city all show the sponsors’ faith in the future of the arts and civic life. Local printing magnate Jerome Frautschi and his wife Pleasant Rowland, the creator of American Girl dolls and books, funded the building.