Known as the “front porch” of UNH’s College of Liberal Arts, Hamilton Smith Hall is one of the oldest, and most recognizable, buildings on campus. Originally built in 1907, this multi-purpose facility has lived many lives—first as a library, then as a site for murals funded by FDR’s New Deal, and now an academic hub. When in need of extensive renovations, UNH selected the architects at DiMella Shaffer to re-imagine how the heart of their campus can better serve its students and faculty. Acentech provided acoustics and audiovisual consulting guidance throughout this 5-year project.

Striking a balance between historic integrity and state-of-the-art innovation can be difficult—especially when it comes to classrooms. After all, pedagogical standards for higher education have been twisted and flipped every way imaginable. How can one keep a lecture hall with a New-Deal-funded mural while subsequently meeting the tech demands of active learning curricula? To solve this age-old struggle in design, DiMella Shaffer completely overhauled the floor plan of selected areas of the 75,000 SF structure—while keeping spaces like mural walls intact. Inside Hamilton Smith Hall, one will now find 32 teaching spaces ranging in size from a 300-seat lecture hall to 15-seat seminar rooms. Meeting the acoustic and audiovisual needs of these drastically different spaces required careful analysis and a range of solutions. To optimize the usability of each area, Acentech’s acoustics consultants guided designers on room finishes customized for each space’s specific purpose, sound isolation between classrooms, and proper mechanical system noise and vibration control methods.

Acentech’s audiovisual consultants also provided guidance on AV system designs that complement the needs of the UNH community. Developing designs that can keep up with the demands of everything from sociology to poetry required a thoughtful attention to detail.

Although this building on campus is known as UNH’s front porch, it is so much more than a place to sit and watch the sunset—after its massive renovation, it is now a proud hub of academic achievement.

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