The goal of this project was to find space for a much needed new recital and performance hall within the Minoru Yamasaki-designed Oberlin Conservatory of Music complex. The hall was required to exhibit excellent acoustic performance and isolation for ensemble recitals, to serve as a multi-purpose daily-use classroom, and to accommodate up to 65 occupants; all within a poured concrete and precast shell designed in 1964 and subject to historic landmarks design oversight. The intervention would modify Bibbins Hall, the main conservatory teaching unit, which fronts on Tappan Square and makes up much of the collective landscape of the city.
The solution was to replace two classrooms and two offices on the top level of the existing building with a new double-height volume. This would require cutting away the roof diaphragm and introducing a new steel truss to transfer loads, support the new structure, and serve as the armature for the intervention.
The volume resolves itself on the exterior as a simple frosted glass lantern, organized along the 2'-7" rhythm of the existing precast structure. This feature permits soft natural light into the performance space while deferring to the reflection of the sky and existing formal language of the Yamasaki building for its image. In the evening, it anchors the corner and gives the 24-hour creative activity of the musicians inside visibility on the square.
The entrance to the hall is marked by acoustically isolated glass display cases which terminate an otherwise unremarkable double-loaded corridor in natural light and musical iconography, while providing a place to gather. Inside, the maple floor and lantern above mark the 'foreign' elements in the otherwise strictly governed white modernism of Yamasaki. The wood dowels are varied in radius and spacing to tune the room, working in concert to soften the sound of the glass lantern, and unify the backdrop for performances. From the absorptive and diffusive ceiling and wall panels, to multiple varied lighting requirements, the intervention was constructed around exacting standards of performance, variability and flexibility.