Over the last 20 years the Thornton School of Music has repeatedly turned to Kirkegaard for help with their acoustically significant facilities.
The first effort was a study (with Hardy Holzman Pfeiffer) for a new music building. When the Thornton School decided to renovate existing facilities instead, Kirkegaard worked with SmithGroup on a thorough renovation of Hancock Auditorium, a non-descript 1940s lecture hall. Unarticulated, downward-tilting plaster walls gave the room a clattery, opaque acoustic quality. Kirkegaard reshaped the side and rear walls to create a warm, clean, transparent sound and added adjustable curtains at the upper walls to accommodate a range of uses from solo guitar to big band jazz. Removing the plaster coffers from the ceiling captured the attic volume, lengthening reverberation and accommodating louder ensembles. New walls and a canopy at the platform improved hearing conditions for the musicians. New HVAC provided quiet comfort throughout the room. The result, opening in 1999, is the 280-seat Alfred Newman Recital Hall, which the Thornton School praises for its “outstanding acoustics”.
Bovard Auditorium, built in 1921, is a 1,235-seat assembly space in an administration building at the heart of campus. It is the largest auditorium on the campus, serving a wide variety of functions – the Thornton School uses it for their largest concerts. Kirkegaard’s 2003 renovation, again with SmithGroup and Auerbach Pollock Friedlander, added quiet HVAC, addressed echo control and isolation, and improved audience amenities. The striking Gothic architecture of the room was preserved and served as inspiration for modern echo-control treatments at the rear of the room.
In 2012, the Thornton School opened its first dedicated orchestra rehearsal room. The Alice and Eleonore Schoenfeld Symphonic Hall is sized for full symphony orchestra and accommodates wind ensemble, percussion ensembles, and a variety of smaller groups. The elegant new room was built within the shell of the former Harold Lloyd Sound Stage, with entirely new interiors designed by Kirkegaard with Dianna Wong (design architect) and Lehrer Architects / Westlake Reed Leskosky (architect of record). Movable acoustic curtains allow the users to tune the room for various uses, including high-level recording. A new AV system supports lectures, and a new air conditioning system provides quiet comfort.
Kirkegaard has also studied both the Jeanette MacDonald Recital Hall and Simon Ramo Recital Hall, 1960s facilities that housed practice and teaching facilities. With local architect Robert Stern, Kirkegaard designed renovations of a choral room and a band room to make them suitable as smaller recital spaces, the 2003 Jeanette MacDonald Recital Hall targeted towards voice and master classes, and the 2008 Simon Ramo Recital Hall targeted towards louder instruments and combos.
One consistent thread running through all these projects is Kirkegaard’s ability to create successful new rooms at modest cost, working within significant limitations of volume or geometry. The rooms complement each other, providing the Thornton School with a suite of useful spaces for their full range of activities.