As one of the oldest and most prestigious preparatory schools in the United States, Phillips Exeter Academy places a particular emphasis on providing students with the right tools to explore their strengths. The Goel Center for Theater and Dance, a new addition to the Exeter campus, illustrates this key mission with grace. Designed by Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects (TWBTA), this facility provides a place for students to discover, explore, and engage the performing arts. Acentech provided acoustics and audiovisual consulting services to the architects throughout the development of this project.
The floor plan of the Goel Center draws inspiration from the workings of a beehive, with an emphasis on social spaces where people can see inside practice and technical spaces. This novel approach celebrates both the product and the process – and with this approach comes many acoustical considerations. To ensure minimal disruption between high traffic areas, Acentech developed strong isolation measures between common spaces and the teaching performing spaces that surround them. The building has an ambitious program of stacked facilities: a dance studio atop a rehearsal hall, a mechanical plant above an apron stage theater, a dance performance hall adjacent to the stage of the main proscenium theater, and more – all designed with floating slabs, double walls, and other details that are key to successful acoustical separation. The main proscenium performance space – which flexibly serves lectures, dance recitals, and theatrical productions – has a beautiful acoustical character that supports this range of uses.
As a space designed to ignite students’ passion for the performing arts, end user experience was a key consideration in the audiovisual design for the Goel Center. The school needed a balance between state-of-the-art programming and accessibility. Within the main theater, Acentech’s AV and acoustics consultants worked together to design a sound system that accommodates a variety of performances and speaking events. With these thoughtful design considerations, Phillips Exeter now has a designated space to inspire a new generation of actors, dancers, singers, and set designers.