SAN FRANCISCO -- Four years after the groundbreaking in October, 2006, the BYU-Idaho Center was unveiled during dedication services in December, making Brigham Young University-Idaho home to one of the largest production theatres in North America built for the primary purpose of supporting weekly student devotional services. Brigham Young University-Idaho is part of the Church of Jesus Christ of latter Day Saints' education system.
As part of the design team led by Salt Lake City-based FFKR Architects and D.L. Adams Associates, Auerbach Pollock Friedlander, Performing Arts/Media Facilities Planning and Design provided programming, planning and full scope of theatre and audio-video consulting and design services for the new 15,000-seat auditorium and broadcast center which includes live event support spaces, pre/post production HDTV facilities and a shooting studio for public service programming.
The new state-of-the-art venue complements the academic setting by providing seating for the entire student body and community guests at regular weekly devotionals as well as special interest events of a secular nature including guest speakers, commencement services and the performing arts. All may be recorded or broadcast live over the BYUtv network, which has an international reach through many leading cable and satellite service providers.
“We accomplished our goal of creating a warm 15,000-seat atmosphere for any single visitor to enjoy at the BYU-Idaho facility,” said Steve Pollock, Principal in Charge for Auerbach Pollock Friedlander. “The space has a surprisingly intimate quality and after a few moments in this auditorium, no matter where you are sitting, you are likely to forget you are attending an event with 14,999 other audience members.”
The large, fan-shaped venue was inspired by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' 20,000-seat Conference Center in Salt Lake City, completed in 2000 with theatre consulting also provided by Auerbach Pollock Friedlander and architectural lighting by Auerbach Glasow French. But unlike the Church's landmark Conference Center, the BYU-Idaho Center's reduced audience size is more appropriate for its educational setting. The auditorium, with simple, clean finishes, a “black out ceiling” with exposed catwalk infrastructure and a forestage grid is a true working theatre with technology and infrastructure representative of the latest cutting edge systems. With the hall's focus on amplified speech, compensation for long viewing distances and visual references to scripture are accommodated by large rear-projection IMAG (image magnification) screens which present live camera feeds of the speaker, as well as pre-recorded imagery of text and pastoral scenes.
Auerbach Pollock Friedlander's work at BYU-Idaho has helped to create a memorable, unique experience not often found in performance halls of this size. Pollock notes that “We have been working over the years with LDS to establish large venues that are comfortable to audiences who may not be familiar with spaces this size other than for sporting events. The goal is to maintain a dignified formality and an architectural order of spaces that makes the process of entering into the 15,000 seat room one that makes it appear to be much smaller than it actually is. Mixing residential and hotel-scale public space calibrates the user's expectations to a finer scale, creating a perception of reduced audience size and greater intimacy.”
The BYU-Idaho Center's 7,500+ square foot stage has a fully-rigged and automated fly system. The flexibility of the stage is constructed to accommodate architectural, lighting and theatrical requirements for a variety of events ranging from the basic production stage to a room with a demountable set of architectural orchestra shell walls, risers and ceiling elements which constitute the flexible “stage set” for devotionals. Although the BYU-Idaho Center's primary role is that of a public assembly space for worship-related programming, the flexibility required to manage its broad menu of events relies heavily on its design as a working live production and broadcast venue. “The requirements of such a large space with so many functions and broadcast requirements create unusual demands that push technology and building codes to the limit,” says Pollock, “and that is a great match for our best skill sets.”
The building also includes a full broadcast center, as many of the facility's programs will be locally produced for air on BYUtv which is carried by 500 cable providers throughout the United States, numerous satellite providers worldwide and via internet streaming.
Auerbach Glasow French, the firm's architectural lighting design division, worked under the direction of the architect to design, document and commission the architectural lighting and related controls for the lobby and auditorium audience chamber. .