Gordon Center for Creative and Performing Arts at Colby

Newly Opened to the Public!

The Gordon Center for Creative and Performing Arts is the largest building at Colby College dedicated to Music, Theater, Dance, Performance and Cinema. Designed to promote innovation, creativity, and interdisciplinary collaboration among students and faculty, it houses highly flexible, multipurpose performing and teaching spaces.

The Forum is the main spine connecting the main venues, and it is used as the center hub for encounter, interaction, receptions, and informal performances. The high-volume Performance Hall has a beautiful, versatile acoustic character. Motorized curtains concealed behind the wood grillage allow the hall to be tuned for a wide range of uses, from symphony orchestra and chorus, to concert band, jazz big band and combos, to master classes and recitals. Carefully tuned audio systems and a beautifully integrated projection system support multimedia presentations and lectures. Folding stage side walls and a shallow orchestra pit accommodate musicals, operas, and dance uses.

Each of the three largest Studios was designed with a distinct acoustic character. Dark Studio is relatively dry, well-suited to speech and loud musical uses such as jazz. Bright Studio is clear and somewhat dry; its primary use is dance classes and rehearsals. Sandbox has a clean, moderately live sound, controlled by acoustic banners; it is suited for rehearsals, recitals and receptions. The Gordon Center also offers a film screening room, recording suite, video production room, maker space, scene shop, teaching studios, practice rooms and classrooms, all thoughtfully designed and equipped. Kirkegaard worked closely with the users and design team from concept design through final tuning to provide Colby a state-of-the-art education and performance facility, with excellent acoustics and audiovisual systems. Learn more about the project here.

Overcoming Design Challenges

The Performance Hall has a rear wall that is glass, which presents specific challenges because the material is a highly reflective surface. Sound from loudspeakers naturally radiates outward from its source. The farther away you are from the loudspeaker system, the wider the coverage of the loudspeakers. This is problematic when there is a need to cover listener areas that are both far away from the loudspeakers and close to reflective surfaces. In this case, the distance from the sound source to the glass had the potential to create late reflections, which are problematic for intelligibility and can be perceived as echoes.

We designed a large center line array with smaller augmented arrays for stereo imaging. The design intent was to provide even coverage for the audience area while sharply dropping off in the rear of the Hall to reduce the amount of energy hitting the highly-reflective glass. Careful acoustic analysis of the design informed some adjustments to the glass where problematic reflections were expected. These adjustments allowed the architect’s vision for the space to be realized without compromising venue functionality.

The smaller stereo augmented arrays provide full stereo imaging within the auditorium while the center array provides the necessary power to reinforce live performances. The entire system is optimized for maximum vocal intelligibility, which we take pride in doing with all of our designs.

A diagram that shows how narrow the coverage is in the vertical plane

“The Gordon Center is a stunningly beautiful facility,” said Colby President David A. Greene, “but that only tells a small piece of the story. It is a technically sophisticated building that invites explorations of new artistic expression in ways that will ensure our performing arts programs flourish. It is a center of creativity that will offer all students the opportunity to engage in the creative process, push the boundaries of what they thought possible, and take that spirit of innovation into other disciplines and ultimately into their lives and work.”