Acentech Studio A, a group of acoustics and audiovisual consultants specializing in theater and performing arts center design, worked with Mills Whitaker Architects to design the renovation of Isaac Harris Cary Memorial Hall in Lexington, Massachusetts. Battin Hall, an 820-seat performance space that is home to the Lexington Symphony, has long been well-regarded for classical music, but the space did not work as well for town meetings, pop music, and other non-classical events. The hall has also suffered from excessive mechanical noise. As part of the renovation and historic preservation effort, Studio A specified retractable sound-absorbing banners to improve the acoustics for non-classical events, and worked with the architect and mechanical engineer to design a quiet mechanical system that included a new relocated chiller and sound-isolated HVAC units.
To better meet the needs for audio playback and speech events, particularly during town meetings and the Cary Lecture Series, Studio A designed a new sound system with goals for high levels of speech intelligibility and audio clarity. Studio A also designed audiovisual presentation systems and recommended acoustical improvements to meeting rooms, lobbies, a small theater space beneath Battin Hall, and other spaces in the building.
One major aspect of Studio A’s acoustics work involved the ceiling in Battin Hall. Horsehair felt was a common acoustic treatment when the facility was originally constructed, and sections of the ceiling were painted horsehair felt. In the ninety years since the building’s opening, layers of paint had reduced the absorption of this felt, rendering the surfaces mostly (but not entirely) sound-reflective. The felt needed to be removed as part of the ceiling renovation, so Studio A used specialty equipment to measure the acoustical properties of this material in place. Our consultants were then able to recommend a specialty ceiling finish that replicated the acoustical properties of the material, to maintain the well-loved acoustics of the space as well as its historic appearance.
At the opening concert, Livingston Taylor complimented the acoustics of the room from stage, saying, “Playing guitar up here, this sounds fantastic.”