A seamless integration of architecture, acoustics and technology, Bing Concert Hall transforms the practice, study and experience of the performing arts at Stanford University. Beyond its being a significant addition to the experience of the arts at Stanford – providing a state-of-the-art venue for visiting performers and students – the facility enriches and engages the greater Bay Area community.
An 842-seat vineyard-style concert hall is the central element of the design and is supported by a rehearsal hall, artists’ suites, a music library and practice rooms. The hall is designed for unamplified musical performances, spoken word, and jazz, electronic and experimental music. Variable acoustics, sound reinforcement, video projection, simulcast and mixing and recording technologies are all incorporated.
The design carefully integrates the building with the campus context, in particular, the burgeoning arts district flanking the University’s central spine, Palm Drive.
The site design responds to the arcadian quality of the surrounding Stanford Arboretum: a forecourt leads to the entry portico and into the lobby of the hall, with daylight entering from all sides; continuous glass walls open the façade to exterior colonnades, a contemporary expression of a traditional Stanford typology; and light wells encircle the concert hall volume, blurring the distinction between inside and out.
Inside the hall, all efforts were directed to creating a superior acoustical experience.
Nestled within a 12-inch-thick concrete enclosure, the hall occupies an oval drum that is acoustically isolated from exterior sounds and designed for optimal acoustics from every seat in the house. Organized with seating sections divided into terraces ringing the stage, the design creates a particularly intimate concert experience for both audience and performers, with the furthest seat only seventy-five feet from the conductor and the center-section seating beginning at the same level as the stage.
Materials throughout were selected for their acoustical properties. The low walls embracing each seating section are angled and articulated with wood walls, specific density and textured surface strategically reflect and disperse sound. The stage has six moving platforms and is built of yellow Alaskan cedar selected for its softness and acoustical properties.
The large convex-shaped sails circling the hall define the hall’s volume, and the design ensures optimal acoustic reflection or absorption, and the sails can be employed as screens for video projection. Between the sails, variable acoustic curtains allow for tuning the room to better accommodate performances that include amplified sound.
Forty-eight feet above the stage floats a double-curved ceiling reflector, which houses and carefully disguises most of the technical lighting, rigging and sound support equipment. Contrasting with the wood below, the lighter tones of the sculptural sail walls and ceiling cloud provide the upper region of the hall with an uplifting quality..