Technological adaptability creates ideal performance and research spaces
The Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute will soon open the doors to its € 131 million Experimental Media and Arts Center (EMPAC) conceived by Grimshaw Architects with Davis Brody Bond as the Executive Architect and Buro Happold Consulting Engineers as MEP/Structural/Sustainable Consultant.
Located on the edge of the Rensselaer campus the new facility is anchored to the side of a challenging 45-degree hill overlooking the city of Troy. The multi-disciplinary center offers an ambitious, international artistic program providing opportunities for interaction and exchange between artists and researchers in science and technology.
The architects challenge was to combine, in one building, the permanence of the traditional performing arts with the transient character of experimental media.
As one of their starting points, the architects considered the resonant chambers of stringed instruments, in the belief that tradition and experimentation are linked by the unvarying physics of sound. As many as two dozen spaces in the building, all built to first-class acoustic standards, may be in use simultaneously. To allow this to happen without acoustic interference, the major venues are distributed in a cascading arrangement on the site to increase isolation and are constructed with separate foundations, complex independent superstructures and resilient isolation.
Visitors enter the building at the top of the hill and enter the lobby. From this space, a series of bridges cross over a three-storey atrium and pierce into the cedar “hull” that houses the concert hall. Two stairways descend on either side of this space and lead to the theater and two black box spaces that can be used for scientific research and performances.
EMPAC’s innovative features include technological methods never used before in the United States such as a glass curtain wall, featuring mullions that carry heated water to insulate the space from sharp winters. The HVAC system, virtually silent to preserve the integrity of performances and research, uses displacement ventilation to push air through registers under the seats. The centre benefits from more than 8000 inputs and hardwiring to CCNI, the world’s largest university- based supercomputer.
The state of the art centre comprises of a 1,200 seat concert hall, a 400 seat theater, 2 flexible seating studios and 4 artist-in-residence studios. EMPAC will open its doors to the public in October a grand opening to honor the new facilities.