MacLachlan, Cornelius & Filoni, Inc., Architect; Pittsburgh, PA
Auerbach Pollock Friedlander, Theatre Consultant; San Francisco, CA
Heinz Hall was originally a movie palace and theater, built in the 1920s. In the 1970s the theater was renovated to serve as the home of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra while retaining its multipurpose functions. The acoustician for this renovation was Heinrich Keilholz. Further renovation studies were undertaken starting in 1995, with Kirkegaard Associates as acoustical consultants.
The goal of the most recent renovation was to improve acoustics for orchestral performance while recognizing the importance of touring productions to the life of the venue. Issues prompting the renovation included poor bass response, poor ensemble conditions, and inadequate projection of sound from the stage.
Ensemble conditions and projection of sound were addressed through a massive removable orchestra shell of plywood/honeycomb construction and a fixed forestage reflector in front of the proscenium. A demountable orchestra riser system was also introduced to improve performer access to direct sound from across the stage as well as to promote visual communication between musicians. The combined effect of the shell and riser systems is much-improved projection of full-frequency direct and reflected sound to the audience as well as greatly-improved ensemble conditions.
In the house, sidewall arcades eroded lateral reflections and resulted in unacceptable and unnecessary room width. The arcades were enclosed with massive masonry and plaster construction that, together with the orchestra enclosure, greatly improved bass response. Further improvements in reverberation time were achieved through renovation of the audience seating by reducing the quantity and unit absorption of the seating foam.
Late reflections to the stage from various surfaces in the auditorium affected ensemble conditions as well. Thin felt treatments were introduced at the upper rear wall and ceiling to reduce these echoes.