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Sound Space Vision Shapes Storey’s Field Centre
UK – Sound Space Vision (SSV) lived up to its highly-respected name when its team of acousticians and theatre planners worked as consultants with architects, MUMA, to provide an elegant, innovative and sustainable community space in their vision for Storey’s Field Centre at Eddington, on the University of Cambridge’s North West Cambridge Development.
Storey’s Field Centre is the dynamic and welcoming hub of the community of Eddington, a new neighbourhood under construction as part of the North West Cambridge Development. The Centre is a civic building in the heart of the new development and encompasses meeting rooms and a large multi-purpose hall for exercise classes, lectures, music of all genres, local festivities and events alongside a nursery.
SSV joined the project to support the range of uses both in the acoustical design and the noise isolation and the activity-led design and specification of the technical fit-out of the building.
MUMA designed the main hall with a high level of design and finish, and SSV created several bespoke technical solutions to optimise the hall and contribute to its overall aesthetic. At once dramatic and pragmatic, the hall is the Centre’s primary public space, holding up to 275 standing and 180 seated.
Given the hall’s rectangular shape and the Centre’s mandate for a varied and active schedule, SSV envisioned a space that was adaptable, flexible, and, crucially, easy to operate by its users. It is a stylish, light-filled, three-storey space with refined acoustics and production fittings and fixtures that are well-detailed, discreet, adaptable and hidden within the architecture.
SSV began with the staging potential by specifying technical and production equipment as well as adaptable acoustics to facilitate multiple seating and staging formations. A combination of LED and tungsten lighting was chosen to provide lighting angles for any stage configuration, and is integrated on motorised bars which also include house lights and moving lights for special events.
Unusually, the main hall has daylight on all four sides with views to a garden and high-level windows on the remaining three sides. This gives an ever-changing atmosphere to the space. The intricate brickwork modelled on the walls is an elegant solution for satisfying sound diffusion, while reviving a well-loved and underused craft. From a production design standpoint, the hall’s neutral colour palette is easily transformed by coloured and varied lighting.
The main hall benefits from several bespoke features including individually-sized acoustic banners created for SSV by a specialist manufacturer, and a one-of-a-kind solution for opening and closing them allows the bottom third banners to move up, and the upper third to move down. Irregularly-spaced timber ‘fins’ extend to and across the ceiling serve to diffuse the daylight and sound in the room as well as hide the lighting positions and banners. There are two production consoles – one located on the floor level cleverly concealed in a cupboard, the other built into a specially-designed desk in the balcony which runs across the hall’s main entrance. The large projector is hidden on a small lift that vanishes into the ceiling when not in use.
The University's brief for the Centre included high performance qualities for the main hall, with a requirement for the acoustics to accommodate a variety of events from chamber music to rock concerts. SSV designed a space with an acoustic flexibility that spans every requirement from very dry, clear sound to live, resonant acoustics, with architectural and design features that double as sound dispersive, absorptive or isolation solutions. For amplification, SSV chose to use three beam-steering column array loudspeakers which have substantial output over a wide frequency range, and are ideal for a space of this scale.
Using passive air ventilation, the entire hall sits between two labyrinths made of sound-absorbing baffles which act as natural ventilators with air flowing in from a ‘sunhole’ in the adjacent walled garden through the basement plenum and flowing out through the attic. Given the natural ventilation, fans are not required, which in turn means no noise in the hall and no maintenance required, simultaneously satisfying acoustical and sustainability goals, while reducing the Centre’s overall costs.
“Our vision at SSV is to complement the architecture of a space, and to give clients a very high level of design, finish, and functionality at the lowest possible cost – usually well beyond their expectations,” stated Anne Minors, design principal, Sound Space Vision.
The two smaller multi-purpose spaces in the Centre – one 20-seat, and one 50-seat space – used primarily for meetings, gatherings and classes both have full-screen projectors and screens, stereo sound systems, acoustic curtains, control racks and facilities panels, and are fitted with the links for inter-room connectivity.
Across the entire Centre sound isolation is achieved with multi-layer windows, doors and vestibules that prevent outside noise from entering activities in the rooms, while ensuring neighbouring residents are not disturbed from the noise levels within the building.
MUMA with SSV assistance have demonstrated that architecture, inclusive and encompassing of exceptional theatre planning and acoustics consultation, can elevate a building beyond its original, perhaps more modest, intentions.
In Storey’s Field Centre, the SSV team have achieved a venue which embraces its multi-functional and diverse purpose, fulfils its responsibility to sustainable building practices, and provides a desired and worthy destination for educators, artists and residents, and a warm, inviting and supportive environment for its new community.
“Storey’s Field Centre really fills a gap in Cambridge for bands looking to play in a small to mid-sized music venue. There isn’t another one like it in the area,” commented Pale Waves audience member, March 2018
To date, North West Cambridge Development has won the AJ Masterplan of the Year Award (2017), and Storey’s Field Centre is already the lively and welcoming hub of the new community of Eddington.
photos: Alan Williams
1st May 2018
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