Auerbach Pollock Friedlander, Performing Arts/Media Facilities Planning and Design, collaborated with Boora Architects (Portland, Oregon), design architects and executive architect Rhotenberry-Wellen Architects (Midland, Texas) on the programming, planning and design through construction of the recently opened Wagner-NoÃ«l Performing Arts Center at the University of Texas, Permian Basin (UTPB). The firm provided theatre and audio-video consulting services for the 109,000 square-foot multi-use complex which includes the 1,819-seat Wagner NoÃ«l Theater, the 189-seat Rea Greathouse Recital Hall. Jaffe Holden was the project acoustician.
The success of the project is credited to the strong working relationship between the design team and UTPB. Auerbach Principal in Charge Steve Pollock notes that “The UTPB Building Committee showed remarkable foresight, involving Bud Franks of Houston-based Franks Associates arts management consultants as our partner in programming and planning from day one. The Committee conceived of the operating model that became our design platform. The process was further assisted by a thorough analysis of the Cowan Center on UTPB's sister campus in Tyler. This analysis gave the design team a working model of a recently-completed performing arts center on a regional UT campus with similar operational issues and cost concerns. It was our touchstone.” Boora and Auerbach had also just completed the successful renovation of the Performing Arts Center and Bass Hall on the flagship University of Texas campus in Austin. The client's understanding of touring productions, as experienced at UT's â€˜grassroots' level, was invaluable to the successful programming and design of the Wagner NoÃ«l Performing Arts Center.
Rod Stewart headlined the opening event on November 1, 2011 for key donors - an excellent sample of the Center's programming model. While the hall's natural acoustics support UTPB's Music Department programs and visiting artists, its primary functions favor touring Broadway attractions, contemporary music, dance, and visiting speakers and newsmakers. Although amplified sound is a basic programming requirement, the design team's approach to the Main Theatre's variable acoustics and sound systems provide an optimal sound and viewing environment for both popular and classical presentations, making it a truly representative multi-use hall for today's audiences.
The Wagner- NoÃ«l Performing Arts Center, funded with seed money from the Texas legislature with significant private fundraising by its local constituents, marks the University of Texas' commitment to the ongoing growth and development of the 42-year old campus, cited in a 2006 Time magazine article as one of the “best values” for an undergraduate education in the United States.
Completion of the Wagner- NoÃ«l Performing Arts Center not only supports the west Texas campus programs, it celebrates the culmination of a significant joint effort of lead donors Cy Wagner and Ellen NoÃ«l, from Midland and Odessa. The cities, better known by many as traditional rivals, now have cause for collective community pride. With architecture recalling the local stratified geology of the West Texas “oil patch”, and an interior star field of LEDs overhead, the Center recalls the oil fields adjacent to its site, making it a true regional home for the arts and entertainment in the Permian Basin.
Wagner NoÃ«l Theater
The 1,819-seat Wagner NoÃ«l Theater – the main venue of the recently-opened Wagner NoÃ«l Performing Arts Center – has been planned to meet the needs of this rapidly-growing west Texas campus and its neighboring communities of Midland and Odessa. The venue will accommodate touring Broadway shows, popular entertainment, dance and a broad range of music programming in addition to student recitals and concerts. Smaller events will be produced in the 189-seat Rea Greathouse Recital Hall.
The Wagner NoÃ«l's acoustically-flexible auditorium is terraced with two balconies and stacked side boxes. Sightlines are excellent from all areas. Technical stage support areas include a full fly tower and forestage gridiron, motorized and manual rigging systems, an orchestra pit lift with seating wagons and a custom orchestra shell with a comprehensive ceiling mover system that allows the ceilings to be removed from the rigged loft area when the space is required for Broadway shows on tour.
The computerized theatrical lighting and sound systems are road-friendly, with front-of-house sound mix and lighting control positions tucked under the shallow balcony overhang at the back of the parterre seating. Cableways from the mix to the dock are easily-accessed for visiting productions. The 100' wide and 44' deep stage has a 49'-6” wide by 30'-0” high proscenium, which can be adjusted with ease in brief time. The stage entrance and performer support services, with two floors of dressing rooms are directly behind the stage which has both internal and external cross-overs.
There is space for two tractor-trailer trucks to park adjacent to the back stage area, with loading directly through the large upstage right receiving and marshalling area. Transitions from concrete dock areas to the stage are free of thresholds. The stage floor is made of quarter-sawn southern yellow pine laid over a resilient subfloor system, engineered to stand up to heavy stage loads, including orchestra shell towers and fork lifts. The resilient subfloor system also makes it a â€˜sprung floor' to provide a safer surface for dancers to work on and to enhance the acoustic resonance of the auditorium. Stage scenery, draperies, stage lighting and audio-video equipment can be attached to and hung on any of the 54 stage battens, each with a scenery/lighting load capacity of one ton. The gridirons – some 69'-0” above the stage and forestage area – allow technicians to rig additional hanging points as well as store stage scenery elements and the ceiling for the orchestra shell.
There are 598 individually controllable theatrical lighting circuits throughout the stage and ample front-of-house lighting positions available for theatre, concert and house lighting, including the overhead LED star field between the lighting catwalks. Additional switched power is distributed throughout the space for moving lights and accessories. The lighting control system allows concert performances and lectures to be run from simple touch screen panels and fully staged productions are run with the computer lighting control consoles.
The design of the custom orchestra shell walls and ceiling was carefully coordinated with the architect and acoustician to both complement the audience chamber finishes and provide the necessary acoustic performance for live unamplified music. Shell walls and ceiling are comprised of modular units designed to accommodate ensembles and orchestras of all sizes. The 29'-6” tall orchestra shell towers move using custom transport carts. Overstage ceiling reflector panels, equipped with integrated orchestra performance lighting, have been mounted to their own permanent trusses, allowing them to be removed efficiently as large single elements. It was important that changes from concert performances to Broadway productions be cost effective. Removal of all three ceilings is easily managed within 45 minutes by a crew of four.
A full width forestage rigging grid above the orchestra lighting canopy provides a work platform for installing touring lighting trusses as well as a support and service area for all of the front-of-house motorized rigging, including three loudspeaker line arrays and an articulating architectural eyebrow. Loudspeakers can be stored out of audience view by raising them on individual hoists and lifting the center array through a notch in the architectural ceiling.
The orchestra pit lift has a lifting capacity of up to sixteen (16) tons and can be set at stage, audience, orchestra pit and storage level. At audience level, upholstered seating wagons can be moved into place quickly to provide additional seating for dance, drama or lectures. At stage level it can be used as an extension to the stage to form a forestage apron.
A permanently installed large perforated projection screen can be flown in for cinema presentations or film festivals.
A combination of standard and custom-designed acoustic draperies and banners have been integrated into the audience chamber. This programmable motorized variable acoustic drapery system allows for easy removal and adjustment to accommodate a variety of performance requirements at the push of a button from the control station.
For performances requiring amplified sound, a â€˜tech-rider' friendly house sound system includes self-powered Left, Center and Right line arrays, array-mounted and portable floor-mounted sub-woofers, concealed front fill loudspeakers, and under-mezzanine and under-balcony delay loudspeakers. System inputs are managed with connection panels located throughout the performance space and with an on-stage analog microphone splitter capable of feeding up to three mixing consoles. The main house mix position is located at an open “sound porch” at the rear of the parterre seating. This sound control and support area is large enough to accommodate the house digital mixing console and up to two additional guest consoles. A complement of self-amplified monitor loudspeakers is available. The monitor mix can be sourced from the main mix console in the auditorium, from a portable on-stage digital mixing console or from the guest's own portable console. The house mixing consoles and digital signal processing systems are networked using EtherSound for simplicity and low latency. Guest consoles can be interfaced with the house systems in analog or digital formats. The house speaker arrays, Left and Right, are easily removed to allow space to install loudspeakers for guest production companies.
A multi-channel production intercommunication system and backstage monitoring and paging systems support stage-management requirements.
Rea Greathouse Recital Hall
The 189-seat Rea Greathouse Recital Hall is a versatile flat floor space with telescopic seating, allowing for end stage or environmental performance configurations appropriate for lectures, receptions or social functions.
A computerized lighting control system, a comprehensive variable acoustics system, and audio-video systems for media presentations, recording and amplification address the hall's various technical needs. An adjacent recording room supports surround-audio recording of events in the recital hall. This room also provides sufficient space for class observation and participation.