Perhaps one of the world’s most unique and expansive examples of adaptive reuse, the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (MASS MoCA) is a true lesson in the value of time and patience. The conversion of a decaying 13-acre industrial complex into America’s largest contemporary art museum sounded like a lofty goal, but designers at Bruner/Cott were able to make this dream a reality. Acentech was selected by the architect to provide acoustics consulting services for the third and final phase of this project, which included massive gallery spaces and a live performance venue.

The nature of a museum is to offer artists and the public a space to connect, to reflect on the world both internally and externally. One of the most common ways to elicit introspection within a museum is to offer peace and quiet to allow the art speak for itself. Yet, within MASS MoCA, creating a tranquil environment proved a true challenge. Since this set of buildings originally stood to manufacture printed fabric, serenity was not a primary concern in its construction.

The mill building aesthetic, at first glance, seemed at odds with the space-intensive methods acoustics consultants would typically recommend for sound control within such large spaces. Mechanical system noise and vibration mitigation was a high priority, since improperly calibrated ventilation and plumbing systems can create a lot of noise in large, empty spaces. Acentech’s consultants borrowed from their experience in mill building residential projects for alternative methods. This approach also helped with sound isolation design between the live performance venue and the rest of the gallery spaces on campus. Using thoughtful collaboration with designers, Acentech was able to provide proper guidance on reverberation control without sacrificing the dramatic contrast between the museum’s massive art installations and their industrial backdrop.

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