Schreyer Award 2007
The design of The Esplanade Arts and Heritage Centre ushered in two significant innovations for acoustical analysis. It saw the first application of our Renaissance acoustic modelling software. To judge accurate renderings of a scale model, sound is required - numbers were not enough. The ability to “listen” to how the ceiling affected sound proved critical. It was a classic example how emerging technology comes to the aid of the arts. The scale model studies also brought with them unexpected results. The computer model was suggesting an acoustical disaster. To achieve the proper reverberance – according to the computer model – the height of the building would have to be raised by 4 metres or more. The scale model suggested otherwise. It was decided to leave the building height as it was. When the building was commissioned and we were able to perform acoustical measurements, they matched the scale model, almost exactly.
The cornerstone of good acoustics is a quiet background noise level. Musicians and actors need a quiet room in the same way that a painter needs a clean canvas. The Esplanade, uses a displacement system to ventilate the room. The floors are perforated with a series of holes. Air is inserted into a room below the auditorium and moves slowly upwards to ventilate the audience chamber. These systems have become quite popular of late. Prior to our work on The Esplanade, however, there was no recognised method of predicting or measuring the acoustical performance of a displacement system plenum. Now there is. Musicians learn and perform better in a room with good acoustics. Thus forms a community. Invariably the catalyst for this artistic splendour comes from the building. Medicine Hat now has that building.