Eastern Illinois University's (EIU) Doudna Fine Arts Center is Charleston's newest architectural landmark, designed by world-acclaimed architect Antoine Predock, winner of the 2006 American Institute of Architects Gold Medal for Lifetime Achievement and the 2007 Smithsonian Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum's Gold Medal for Lifetime Achievement in Design. In addition to housing EIU's departments of Art, Music, and Theatre Arts, the 234,000 square-foot state-of-the-art multi-purpose facility boasts several public arts venues. Programming includes the New and Emerging Artists Series, and other series, performances, exhibitions, and events.
The Doudna Center’s high tech sound design was created by JaffeHolden Acoustics. Working with Predock, they developed world-class acoustics that are seamlessly integrated into the architecture, designed with the ultimate flexibility of acoustics. Housing five diverse venues, the Doudna features a 600-seat Concert Hall, a 250-seat Proscenium Theatre, a 180-seat Recital Hall, a 75-seat Studio Theatre, and a 150-seat Lecture Hall. Each venue accommodates a variety of performing arts and not just one specific use, and the acoustics were designed to anticipate every possible future event in each space. In addition, the center houses rehearsal rooms for orchestra, chorus, jazz, and percussion. There are numerous practice and teaching studios, many renovated from existing spaces requiring major sound isolation treatments. The theatre, surrounded by academic spaces, is actually isolated around its entire perimeter by a 2” thick acoustic isolation joint to prevent structure borne vibration from entering the theatre. Dvorak Concert Hall is renovated and has been enhanced by a unique copper finished orchestra shell allowing the musicians to hear themselves better. A new Rogers electronic organ will also be installed in the upstage wall of the shell. The Recital Hall has been carved from the old Drama Theatre and features an end stage constructed of thick solid glass panels. The stage house has been coupled into the house to create a one room acoustic space.
Entering the digital age, acoustics are managed by a digital recording studio acting as the sound brain to all the five venues. Each one is networked with audio/video communication capabilities, including remote control access. Also, since this is a center for higher education, each venue is equipped with simple and complex sound systems for students who are either beginners or advanced users.
Outstanding visuals that also required acoustical achievements are The Recital Hall’s orchestra shell, made of glass and the Concert Hall’s shell, made of copper set to plywood. One of the other spectacular visuals is the 85-foot-high, 150-yard-long concourse designed with crystalline formations of colored glass, reflective glass, and clear glass with emphasis on natural light. The public concourse connects the entire center architecturally and also has the capability to play sound from any of the five venues.
“The extent of massing so many performance, rehearsal, and practice spaces in an existing building plan created many acoustical challenges,” says Russell Cooper, principal acoustician on the project. “Add to this the unique and creative ideas from Mr. Predock’s office and the project a feast for the senses—both visually and for the ears, of course.”