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 its 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 Goel Center is the latest in a strong history of architecturally significant buildings on campus, including signature works of Louis Khan and Ralph Adams Cram. 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—areas typically hidden behind closed doors in theaters and dance facilities. This novel approach celebrates both the product and the process – the work of students and faculty that goes into a production – 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.
Although the Goel Center will host plenty of opening nights for years to come, the building’s day-to-day purpose is mostly educational. 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. Striking a balance between state-of-the-art programming and accessibility demanded an expert understanding of these complicated systems. Within the main theater, Acentech’s AV and acoustics consultants worked together to design a sound system which can accommodate 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.
In addition to the main theater, every space in the building has an AV system to support the various needs of the school and programs. From the classrooms to dance rehearsal rooms, every space has some AV in it. In addition, the numerous dressing rooms can be used by any of the 3 performance spaces, and can be tied to that performance room for monitoring and production communications. Even the grand lobby space has the ability to support audio reinforcement for audience recall back to your seats after intermission to a presentation from the main stair. All the spaces were considered as to how the AV can support the needs of the school and the students.