HarleyEllis, Architect; Southfield, MI
Schuler Shook, Theater Consultant; Chicago, IL
A generous donation was the impetus for the Howard Performing Arts Center at Andrews University. When dreams inevitably outstripped the budget, KA worked with the client to develop strategies for maximizing what their dollars could buy. The client chose to build their highest priority spaces without compromising quality – an 832-seat concert hall and a generous lobby well-suited for banquets and receptions. Space for the campus radio station and a warmup/rehearsal room was initially shelled and has been subsequently fitted out. Courtyard space at each end of the lobby deliberately accommodates a future art gallery and a future recital hall, but the building is designed to look complete without them.
The concert hall is the primary performance space for the university’s orchestra, concert band, and choirs, and it also serves as a recital space. The hall presents a wide range of visiting artists and was designed to accommodate community groups as well.
The hall is a classic shoebox with subtle shaping to maximize a sense of intimacy. The room has a single balcony with wheelchair seating in the middle, allowing the front rows to float just above a cross aisle at the back of the main floor. Side balconies step down to meet a low choral terrace that surrounds the stage. A niche behind the choral terrace allows the future addition of a pipe organ.
Heavy masonry walls isolate the hall from outside noise, provide robust support for bass frequencies, and are the primary finish in the hall. Judiciously located wood panels provide additional diffusion. Three sets of motorized curtains with a simple, intuitive control system allow the hall’s acoustics to be tuned for each performance.
An underfloor supply system keeps the hall comfortably cool and virtually silent, and an isolation joint between the hall and the rest of the building protects patrons from random nose in the corridors, lobby, and surrounding spaces.
A simple audio system provides high quality amplification when needed, and the room is well-liked for recording.