Blending with the aesthetic of the rest of the Alice Lane 3 building, the 250-seater Bowmans Auditorium is situated on the ground floor and is encapsulated by glass.
Architect Kim Newell from Paragon Architects explains that rather than boxing in a traditional auditorium, the idea was to create a venue that has a connection with the piazza and allows people to look out while sitting in the audience.
The challenge, however, was to achieve the desirable aesthetics while making the space perform acoustically. Working in conjunction with acoustic consulting engineer, Ivan Lin, a perfectly balanced design unfolded.
“Glass is highly sound-reflective and in a large space such as the Bowmans Auditorium, one needs to provide adequate sound-absorptive and energy redirecting surfaces to control sound reverberation and discrete reflections,” explains Lin. “But in this case we had to find a creative way of addressing acoustics without blocking the visual effect of the glass wall.”
The solution: Balancing function with visual effect
In addition to installing Vogl joint acoustic perforated ceilings, the team came up with a fin-shaped panel design, which was installed on the sides of the auditorium, serving a dual purpose.
Firstly, these fins provide the necessary sound absorption, comprising mineral wool covered by perforated MDF panels with a Duco finish. The thickness of the boards affected the width of the grooves, and Newell points out that great care was taken to balance the sound, structure and aesthetic.
Secondly, considering sight lines from the stage area as well as from the seats, the fins were angled so that the audience could have a view to the piazza outside, but from the speaker’s perspective on stage, the view is completely blocked so as not to be distracted by outside activities. Automated blinds are hidden behind the panels to provide complete privacy when required.
At the back of the auditorium, more absorptive material was installed, covered in a cost-effective fabric. Interestingly, these panels were fixed using Velcro to create a seamless installation. This simple solution also allows these panels to be easily removed or replaced if necessary.
“This was definitely one of the most challenging projects that I have worked on because there weren’t any straight angles, no 90 degrees and to get everything to line up was tricky,” notes Newell. “But we worked it into something really beautiful,” she concludes.
Full thanks and acknowledgement are given to Kim Newell from Paragon Architects and Ivan Lin from Linspace for the information given to write this article.
Caption main image:The glass auditorium allows outside views from the audience’s point of view. Courtesy of Paragon Architects