“The arts”—a simple phrase, but a very complicated area of higher education.

Everything from photography to printmaking to music is often placed under this very large umbrella. Yet, these specializations have very different space and equipment criteria, and finding a singular home for all artists to grow can be quite a challenge. When looking to further invigorate its world-class arts programs, Wellesley College chose to repurpose and expand the west wing of its historic Pendleton Hall, originally built for chemistry research. The architect for this project, Kieran Timberlake, selected Acentech to provide acoustics and audiovisual consulting for this transformative project.

Erected in 1934, both wings of Pendleton Hall have undergone a series of renovations over the years, but this extensive repurposing proved to be the most challenging one yet. Acoustically speaking, the needs of many of these new spaces could not be more different. From music rooms to printmaking studios to digital media labs, each specialized space within Pendleton Hall West has very different requirements for ventilation and noise control.

The addition contains two prominent music spaces: a large rehearsal hall and a smaller salon. Both rooms feature a clear, bright, and lively sound that allows ensemble musicians to hear one another clearly and avoids excessive loudness, even in large rehearsals. Both rooms are well isolated from other spaces in the building, both feature extremely quiet ventilation, and both are equipped with state-of-the art sound and video systems. These acoustical and audiovisual design features compliment the architectural design’s use of natural light and warm, bright colors and materials.

Acentech also assisted on the design of a welcoming entryway, high tech classroom spaces, and proper ventilation needs for printmaking, photography, and painting studios.

Lifting this building into the 21st century also required creative solutions for students’ and teachers’ audiovisual needs. BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) capabilities within teaching and lounge spaces was a critical aspect to keeping this new campus destination as user-friendly as possible. Acentech’s audiovisual consultants also assisted in the design of sound recording systems in the music rooms, ADA-compliant assistive listening capabilities, and digital signage to help visitors from any walk of life feel at home within Pendleton Hall West. Within the digital arts labs and standard classrooms, the design and selection of highly technical equipment had to walk a complicated line between “state-of-the-art” and “user-friendly.” Going too far in either direction limits the usability of these spaces for both students and teachers, and Acentech’s extensive experience assisting in digital media lab projects allowed designers to strike the perfect balance. In addition, we closely collaborated with Wellesley’s Technology Support Services department to ensure we were providing the systems they could support moving forward.

Although Pendleton Hall West no longer relies on Bunsen burners and beakers for experimentation, the age-old chemistry of creativity and passion still lives in its newly minted arts spaces.

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