EMPAC impacts education

Samy Mansour
26 Feb 2010

Grimshaw’s new laboratory explores the overlapping realms of science, the arts, and technology

As a response to an international design competition, the Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center (EMPAC) is a nexus of technological and artistic innovation and optimized performance space, where the intersection of science and the arts is explored through sound, movement and light.

Sited on a steep hillside overlooking the Hudson River, the 18,500 sq m building extends the existing Rensselaer campus westward. It provides five different performance environments: an elegant 1,200-seat concert hall, a 400-seat theater, two adaptive performance studios, and a dance studio. It also houses audio and video editing suites, artists-in-residence studios, and the campus radio station.

The building is intended to be a laboratory for heightening the sensitivity of the experiences of seeing, listening and moving through space. Grimshaw has designed a multi-functional, multi-layered building in which performances and other activities can take place concurrently without absolute segregation of building users. Key to the design is the atrium space, which acts a hub for informal social interaction and as the lobby to the major spaces. The program was complex and technically demanding; including four separate venues rated to the acoustic noise criteria RC-15.

EMPAC was designed from the outset to meet LEED Silver Certification and be a world class performing arts venue that provides the highest standards of acoustics and human comfort while using primary energy and construction materials as efficiently as possible for a building of its type. Precisely tailored to its complex program, EMPAC brings an innovative and inspirational facility to the Rensselaer campus, the New York region, and the international community for the arts.

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