Nestled in the woods of Concord, MA, the Middlesex School has a direct connection to the importance of nature and an inherent duty to protect it. When looking to convert to greener energy standards for its campus, this institution noticed that it had a unique opportunity—no longer in need of its 100-year old steam plant, the school now had a significant amount of unused space that could be used for students. Together with designers at CBT, the Middlesex School transformed this outdated symbol of industrialization into a beacon for creativity and community: The Rachel Carson Music and Campus Center. Acentech’s team of consultants provided acoustics and audiovisual consulting to the architect for this unparalleled adaptive reuse project.

As a preparatory school, Middlesex must rise to a particularly unique challenge of educating students both inside and outside of the classroom. Having welcoming spaces outside of a kid’s dorm room is crucial to the development of the institution’s graduates. The Rachel Carson Music and Campus Center soothes this need twofold—with formal, informal, and educational areas throughout the building, students can easily transition between work and playtime. However, the multi-use nature of this space meant it faced unique acoustical challenges. Proper sound isolation between music practice rooms, rehearsal spaces, classrooms, a recital hall, and a central gathering area, was critical to ensuring these competing interests did not interfere with the usability of another. The conversion of this former energy plant into a creative hub also demanded the installation of an entirely new mechanical system, which in turn required stringent noise and vibration standards, which varied from space to space.

The audiovisual needs of the Rachel Carson Center also received particular attention. With classrooms, music and choral practice spaces, and a recital hall,  this facility helps pupils and teachers accomplish a wide variety of different tasks. The design of the sound and video systems kept the needs of the end user in mind. With easily accessible equipment and configurations, these state-of-the-art systems can be understood by virtually any layperson on campus. After all, a campus center is not simply a place for insiders—it’s a building that should be inviting to newcomers and alumni/ae alike.

This newly repurposed building at the Middlesex School truly brings students, teachers, and family together. Within the main lounge, the designers’ decision to keep the building’s distinctive brick smokestack intact adds an unexpected warmth to the facility—ironic for a feature that often evokes images of coal, steam, and sweat. Now, with careful planning and a special attention to detail, this eye-catching piece of history is a subtle connection to the past in a school that is constantly looking toward the future.

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