Positioned on a bluff overlooking the Hudson River, the Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center (EMPAC) builds on Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute’s heritage of technological leadership. Rensselaer’s research groups include the Lighting Research Center, a nexus of independent expertise on the latest LED lighting research. Inspired by the institute’s spirit of innovation, the new facility is illuminated with state-of-the-art technology.
Providing world-class, specialized facilities for artistic production, performance, and research, EMPAC comprises a vast number of different spaces, from a formal concert hall and a theater to informal experimental studios. As well, it includes a complete spectrum of rehearsal spaces, professional production and post-production facilities. Serving the campus, regional and international arts communities, EMPAC’s rich combination of professional facilities is nowhere else found under a single roof.
The lighting design simultaneously corresponds to and provides a cohesive visual structure for EMPAC’s diverse range of formal and informal spaces. Lighting solutions accomplish a multiplicity of tasks, fulfilling precise technical and aesthetic criteria, while fully coordinating with stringent acoustic requirements and integrating with the distinctive architecture. Innovative lighting strategies include the use of long-life solid-state technology to illuminate the concert hall. These unprecedented solutions involved intensive research and development in close collaboration with the industry.
The core of the Center is the main concert hall, designed for a wide range of performances from traditional to contemporary. Inside, luminaires providing ambient illumination are skillfully integrated within a geometrically complex fabric ceiling. This is an inventive twist to the conventional approach of deploying decorative chandeliers or sconces as eye-catchers. Lighting showcases the architecture, with textured wall panels lit by nearly invisible lines of light and small profile ceiling downlights precisely integrated within the curved, scalloped balcony ceilings.
At night, the wooden hull of the concert hall glows behind an elegant glass façade, accentuating the highly sculptural volume and creating an iconic nighttime appearance.