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Emory University – The Donna and Marvin Schwartz Center for Performing Arts

Atlanta, Georgia, USA


Michael Dennis & Associates, Design Architect; Boston, MA
Howard-Montgomery-Steger, Associate Architect; New Orleans, LA
SRSS Architects, Project Architect; Atlanta, GA
Theatre Projects Consultants, Theatre Consultant; South Norwalk, CT

Project Description

The Schwartz Center for the Performing Arts in Atlanta, Georgia, is a multi-use complex for music, dance and theater at Emory University. The facility features an 830-seat concert hall, dance performance studio and experimental black-box theater. In addition to the performance spaces, the facility also houses one large rehearsal hall and a number of small rehearsal and teaching spaces.

The concert hall is designed to accommodate a variety of University performance groups as well as community groups and touring productions. A new Bach-style organ will be installed in the concert hall in future years. Construction of the space includes walls of concrete block with a plaster finish and painted precast concrete ceiling panels to provide full frequency response for the variety of uses. The design of the space includes a band of clerestory windows surrounding the room, and heavy glass construction has been utilized to provide support for sound within the space and isolation from exterior noise. Due to the varying use of the room ranging between symphonic orchestra, chorus, wind ensembles, and jazz, an extensive system of variable acoustic elements is designed for the space. The primary elements of the system are banners at the perimeter of the room that are designed to be deployed either over the clerestory windows or drop to a position below the windows before extension. A center loudspeaker cluster utilized for both speech and music is designed to store above the ceiling when not in use.

Isolation between the three performance spaces and individual teaching spaces was an important aspect of the design. Isolation requirements were intensified by the tight site conditions that required close proximity between spaces, and an acoustic isolation joint runs through the building to separate the Concert Hall from the immediately-adjacent Dance Studio.

The design of the audio systems was undertaken with the intent of being, at once, maximally flexible, easy to use and of excellent sonic quality. Systems for the Theater Lab, Dance Studio and Rehearsal Hall include mobile audio equipment racks that allow the user to operate the systems from a variety of locations within each space according to the needs of given performance or rehearsal. Likewise, loudspeakers in the Theater Lab and Dance Studio may be repositioned to virtually any location within those rooms.

The Emerson Concert Hall is served by a main center cluster loudspeaker system that, when needed, emerges from the attic space by an electric hoisting system. For unamplified performances, the cluster is stored in the attic and concealed from view to preserve the visual aesthetic. Also serving the Concert Hall is a loudspeaker system integrated into the front edge of the stage. Used in conjunction with the main cluster, this system provides supportive amplification for audience nearby the stage and allows all listeners to better perceive the sound as originating from the stage rather than from “on high.”

Sound may be mixed from the Control Booth using the 40 channel mixing console or the console may be repositioned to an in house mix position. Intercom systems are included in all venues to allow production staff to communicate while running the technical aspects of any performance. Loudspeaker systems are also provided in the public and back of house spaces for monitoring of program and page announcements. The entire facility is served by an extensive system of audio and video interconnection that affords nearly limitless signal routing possibilities for temporary setups.

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