Kaufman Center And Merkin Hall Undergo Acoustic Renovation

Renovation of the 457-seat Merkin Concert Hall in the Kaufman Center (the Goodman House at 129 W. 67th Street in New York City) commences in May, with JaffeHolden set to handle acoustic restoration and technical upgrades of the performance sound systems.

The project, with design by Robert A. M. Stern Architects of New York, includes a major re-conceptualizing and updating of the building exterior and public spaces and is scheduled to be completed in January 2008.

Merkin Hall’s acoustics are widely considered to be extremely fine. The renovation of the acoustic chamber is largely an act of preservation, according to JaffeHolden acoustic designer Andrew Schmidt. “The hall is a great acoustic gem in need of refurbishment,” he says. “Our task is to see that the refurbishment doesn’t alter the existing acoustic.”

To that end, the acoustic reflector panels in the hall will be pulled down, refinished, and replaced. The seats in the hall, many of which are in need of repair, will be recovered and refinished. “We’re working with Auerbach [theatre consultants, Auerbach Pollock Friedlander] on acoustical testing of fabric and the thickness of the foam to ensure a match with the properties of the existing seating,” says Schmidt.

Actual improvements to the hall acoustics will focus on reducing noise from the hall’s HVAC system and attenuating sound absorption from the building’s mechanical systems. “Some of the background noise in the hall is not fan noise from the HVAC system itself,” says Schmidt, “but structure-borne vibration from the units themselves which need to be properly isolated.”

The sound system in the hall will be replaced. JaffeHolden systems designer, Ben Bausher, will design a new infrastructure to accommodate a sound reinforcement system, as well as for expanded broadcasting and recording capabilities. Currently, the center must rent a sound system for amplified performances.

Architectural improvements to building will include: a new canopy and signage; a unified entrance for the Kaufman Center's three divisions (Merkin Hall, the Lucy Moses School, and the Special Music School); enlarged lobby and reception spaces at both the orchestra and balcony levels; and the replacement of metal panels on the 67th Street facade with translucent structural channel glass to admit filtered sunlight by day and to allow the building to glow from within by night.

The Kaufman Center has occupied the W. 67th Street site since 1978.

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