"We always start with silence," says Bob Wolff, a former principal consultant of the world's foremost acoustic consulting firm, Artec Consultants Inc. of New York. "That's really the most important thing after having the audience and performers protected from weather."
He and Russell Johnson, Chair of Artec, have an extensive background of success in designing performing arts facilities across the world. Among their distinguished credits lay the concert hall in Birmingham, England, the Morton Myerson Hall in Dallas, and the Jack Singer Concert Hall in Calgary.
It was important to the designers that Winspear Centre achieve maximum acoustic quality: excellent clarity needed to be ensured in the room, while achieving the right mixture of early sound and reverbrance. Also essential to the designers was to maintain a sense of visual and aural intimacy, while providing excellent sight lines for the audience.
With terraces surrounding the main floor, each level arranged so people are grouped in smaller areas, there are fewer people on the sides of the room. By doing this, sightlines are vastly improved, and sound energy can effectively get into the ears of the listener. At the top of the hall sits a 'top hat', which serves as an effective reverberation creator. With reflectors set behind the platform and fins on the canopy, sound from the stage can be reflected back onto the musicians so they can hear themselves play, as well as distribute sound to the main seating area on the floor.
The structure of the Performance Chamber was designed to suppress any outside noise. The heavy, airtight walls provide acoustic insulation because they are constructed in layers upon layers. Structural isolation is achieved by a separate concrete-walled building within the exterior building shell. Mechanical and electrical systems are in a totally different structure relative to the Performance Chamber.