College concert hall integrates architecture with precision acoustic design

The Blyth Performing Arts Centre at Iona College by Stevens Lawson Architects achieves world class sound in a concert hall with an asymmetric form

The 400-seat concert chamber at The Blyth Performing architecture, auditorium, ceiling, concert hall, daylighting, floor, flooring, interior design, performing arts center, stairs, theatre, tourist attraction, wall, wood, brown
The 400-seat concert chamber at The Blyth Performing Arts Centre is a generous and elegant room with finely tuned acoustics, like a musical instrument. Its asymmetrical interior allows sound to spread through the space in a more dynamic way.

The best architecture is a perfect synthesis of form and function. Not only should a building be beautiful, it should also be beautiful to use.

That's the underlying principle architects Nicholas Stevens and Gary Lawson say they applied to their design of The Blyth Performing Arts Centre at Iona College.

In this case, the functional requirement was a 400-seat concert hall specifically designed for non-amplified music, but which could also accommodate dance and theatre performances as well as school assemblies.

"The college wanted the hall to have world-class acoustics, while the building itself had the potential to make a welcoming statement at the approach to the school," says Nicholas Stevens.

Lit up at night, the glazed foyer of architecture, building, corporate headquarters, estate, evening, facade, home, house, real estate, sky, structure, sunlight, black
Lit up at night, the glazed foyer of The Blyth Perfoming Arts Centre acts as a welcoming beacon on the approach to Iona College in Havelock North

The form of the building had two main drivers the asymmetrical shape of nearby Te Mata Peak, and sensuous, curvaceous shapes associated with musical instruments.

The resulting asymmetric design carries through to the interior of the concert hall itself. And to get the sound right, Stevens Lawson called on the expertise of acoustic consultants Marshall Day.

Stevens says the asymmetrical shape allowed the sound to be spread through the space in a more dynamic way that was ideal for the acoustics.

"We've integrated the acoustical features so they're become part of the architecture," he says.

Ground floor plan of The Blyth Perfoming Arts architecture, area, design, diagram, drawing, floor plan, home, house, line, plan, product, product design, property, residential area, structure, white
Ground floor plan of The Blyth Perfoming Arts Centre by Stevens Lawson Architects:1 porte cochere, 2 entry, 3 foyer, 4 servery/bar, 5 reception, 6 toilets, 7 kitchen, 8 office, 9 green room, 10 stage, 11 plant room, 12 scene dock/assembly, 13 loading dock

"So the ceiling wraps around and fragments into ripples, or clouds', which disperse the sound. This required very precise measurements and calculations to ensure the correct dispersal occurred."

While the concert acoustics have already been acclaimed by a range of performers in the hall, it also needed to work for other types of performances. This is achieved through the variable acoustic wall at the rear of the hall.

"This can modify the reverberation time in the room at the touch of a button, and dampen the sound for spoken word," says Stevens.

With the concert hall complete and fully used by the school and the community, the next phase will be to add a music room and dance theatre.

Credit list

The Blyth Performing Arts Centre, Iona College, Havelock North
Construction company
Mackersey Construction
Quantity surveyor
Rider Levett Bucknall
Acoustics consultant
Marshall Day
LT7 from Diamond
Interior flooring
Polished concrete by Polished Concrete Ltd; stage sprung floor by Hardwood Technology; Marmoleum from Forbo; Vitex decking from Hermpac; carpet tiles from Inzide Commercial
Melteca Sublime Teak; Bestwood Tasmanian Ash
Auditorium lighting
Brightgreen, Kenderdein Electrical
Acoustic wall
Altair louvres in pine
Nicholas Stevens FNZIA and Gary Lawson FNZIA, Stevens Lawson Architects (Auckland)
Mechanical and electrical engineer
E Cubed
Iona College
LT7 from Dimond; Rustic Clad from JSC Timber; Lexan Thermo Click, Ampelite; pre-cast concrete
APL Vantage by Wight Aluminium
Timber panelling
Bandsawn pine from Herman Pacific
Fibrous acoustic diffuser panels from Atlans Fibrous Plaster Co; Aona Knauf Cleaneo; Gib
Public space lighting
Noguchi from Akari
Auditorium seating

Story by: Paul Taylor

Photography by: Mark Smith

11 Dec, 2015

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