For 14 years Kirkegaard has worked with the Conservatorio de Musica de Puerto Rico and its indefatigable Chancellor, Maria del Carmen Gil, to help the school realize its dream of a new home. From initial programing with the Boston architect Domenech Hicks Krockmalnic, through full design with New Orleans-based Performance Architecture and their renovation of a historic building, through the completion of a new building, shepherded through construction by the San Juan architect ArchUD, Kirkegaard has been an integral part of the process.

In September, the dream became reality, with the official opening of the new building.

The new site for the Conservatory reclaims an underused site in the once-vibrant commercial district of Miramar, across the lagoon from the hotels of the Condado. As part of the development of an Arts District, the Conservatory renovated an abandoned 19th century orphanage into classrooms, offices and practice rooms, and built a parking deck behind it. The deck is covered with a landscaped terrace that offers a small amphitheater and breathtaking views of the lagoon. The courtyards of the historic building have also offered a wonderful setting for musical performances.

The new building sits beside the historic building. The courtyard between the new and old buildings, dominated by a huge ficus tree, has already become a favorite space for students to relax and make music.

The heart of the new building is the 360-seat Sala Jesus Sanroma, a versatile recital hall that gracefully showcases a wide range of performances, from the delicacy of unamplified solo guitar to the robust power of Latin percussion. An array of acoustic curtains adjust the sound for each use. The stage is sized for a full symphony orchestra with chorus, and its pivoting side wall panels and removable orchestra pit covers allow it to present dance and opera.

The 100-seat choral rehearsal room, Sala Junior Soto, is a fine recital hall for chamber music. Rehearsal rooms for large ensembles, jazz, percussion, and dance round out the major musical spaces in the building. The building also offers a library, a recording studio, additional practice rooms, and forty comfortable, acoustically-supportive teaching studios.

Kirkegaard designed the room acoustics, noise control, sound isolation, and audio video systems for both the renovated and the new facility. Great care was taken to create a design that was efficient, affordable, and appropriate to its tropical setting. The results speak – and sing – for themselves.