Acoustically Transparent “Skin”

Frederick Bernas
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Behind a factory façade decorated with colorful creations, the auditorium at National Sawdust is even more striking.

Intersecting black lines on the white walls, floor and ceiling break up a symmetrical space to generate the illusion of irregularity.

“In any major city, a post-industrial arts space is very understandable, so we wanted that familiarity and comfort, but also something that would linger in the memory,” said architect Peter Zuspan, a founding principal at Bureau V. “When you come through the lobby, it feels completely strange and different.”

The zigzag channels are made from aluminum that is perforated to achieve acoustic transparency, finished with a synthetic fabric commonly used to protect the speakers of sound systems. The black channels also house technical elements such as lighting, power outlets and AV panels, eliminating visual interference from wires or cables.

The 12 interchangeable units measuring 1×2 m comprising the stage allow its configuration to be set depending on the show, with room for as much as 70 percent of a full orchestra. The auditorium is shielded by a custom 3×3 m vertically sliding door manufactured by Clark Door. It can be closed to effectively seal the space during acoustically sensitive performances.

Despite a strong synthesis between functionality and eye-catching aesthetics, some of the most intriguing innovations at National Sawdust—which opened in 2015—are not visible to concert-goers. Bureau V worked closely with engineers at Arup, a firm which uses proprietary data modeling software to simulate the acoustics of a space,a sonic parallel to architectural visualizations.

Courtesy of architect Peter Zuspan
Courtesy of architect Peter Zuspan

National Sawdust lobby. Courtesy of the architect.

National Sawdust floor plan. Courtesy of the architect

“Massive” black and white velour drapery surround Brooklyn’s music venue, National Sawdust, creating an “acoustic envelope”.

National Sawdust exterior

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