Located on the shores of Lady Bird Lake with enticing views of the Austin, TX skyline, the new Joe R. and Teresa Lozano Long Center For Performing Arts incorporates materials from an older building that was partially demolished — the outdated Palmer Auditorium built in 1959 — and reused more than 65% of the materials in the construction of the new venue (and 95% of the debris was reused here of elsewhere rather than becoming landfill). This is not only environmentally intelligent, but also had a large impact on the budget, giving Austin a major performing arts center for a fraction of the cost of an entirely new building.
Architect Stan Haas FAIA of Nelsen Partners led the design team, working in conjunction with Zeidler Partnership Architects on the architectural concept, which preserves the innovative circular “ring beam” that gives the Long Center its design signature and reflects a strong mid-20th-century style. The recycling of materials reflects the Center'ls commitment to sustainability, which began with the very concept of the project — an adaptive re-use of the lakeside site. Examples include unusual multicolored aluminum panels from the old domed roof that were reused as exterior and interior finishes for the new venue.
Since the gala opening in late March, an ambitious schedule of arts programming has commenced in the main theatre, the 2,425-seat Michael & Susan Dell Hall. Fisher Dachs Associates (FDA) served as theatre consultants for the project, with acoustics by Mark Holden/JaffeHolden. “They wanted to save as much of the old building as possible,” notes Joshua Dachs, principal at FDA.
In terms of Dell Hall, the old flat-floor auditorium was demolished and rebuilt as a stylish multi-level theatre. “We saved the old stage house, lowering the stage floor by 10' and leaving the grid where it was,” Dachs adds. “The lower stage floor means we could achieve a better proscenium height, especially for the symphony.” The new proscenium opening is 54' wide by 32' high.
This was an important issue as the venue is the new home for three resident companies: Austin Symphony Orchestra, Austin Lyric Opera, and Ballet Austin. The stage house was already one of the largest in Texas, but the stage was not suited to the various needs of the companies. “The taller proscenium was useful for acoustical reasons, not to mention improved opera and ballet stage pictures,” says Dachs. “There was an existing truss about 24' above the original stage floor that could not be moved. We wanted a visual opening of no less than 30' for opera and ballet and an acoustical opening as close to 40' as we could get. Since we couldn't raise the truss, we lowered the floor.” There is also more fly space as a result.
The new auditorium is a traditional semi-horseshoe shape with seating (by Ducharme) in the orchestra, parterre, mezzanine, balcony, and boxes. “In terms of the auditorium, it is pretty straightforward for a multipurpose space, with a concert shell. What is unique is that they achieved standard performing arts center functionality at the lower price by using as much of the old building as they could save,” explains Dachs. At a cost of $77 million ($278 per square foot), the savings was considerable.
Using the original grid, Texas Scenic added a new double purchase counterweight fly system with a locking rail and two loading rails located stage left, with a total of 71 manual line-sets with truss battens. A fire curtain and dedicated house curtain (made of 24oz. velour and rigged to guillotine on a dedicated winch-assisted arbor drive line-set) are both motorized and sit immediately upstage of the proscenium. Texas Scenic also supplied the rigging system as well as a custom fabricated automated system that adjusts soft goods in the house for acoustic dampening and control.
Mark Holden, principal acoustician of JaffeHolden, took the lead on the acoustics for Dell Hall, collaborating with FDA and the architects. “The goal was to create an outstanding facility with superb acoustics for the symphony, ballet, and opera,” says Holden. As a result, Holden used all the tricks he learned in 30 years as an acoustician to come up with innovative, low-cost solutions for Dell Hall, yet have a flexible “tunable” facility to meet multiple needs, from natural acoustic events to Broadway musicals.
Part of the solution includes 9,000sq-ft. of adjustable acoustic Venetian-style banners and tracked curtains (made of 25oz. velour) that float behind the seats and above the ceiling; these are motorized with remote control to help tune the room for amplified events. There is also a massive orchestra shell and five Wenger Diva Series acoustical cloud ceilings, each 8' deep, with white finish. Each panel has nine ETC Source Four PAR fixtures for concert lighting. Twelve Wenger Diva Series freestanding, movable acoustical towers have a cherry finish. “It has every technical bell-and-whistle one expects in a modern performing arts center,” notes Holden, who worked around the challenges of dealing with a partially existing building. “It's not like starting with a blank piece of paper.”
While the stage size easily accommodates a large orchestra and chorus, and the new orchestra pit is more than ample — now two platforms raised and lowered on Gala Spiralift columns — the large size of the auditorium could have been problematic. “At 2,400 seats, you really start to push the limits of what you can do acoustically,” Holden explains. “The design of Dell Hall is such that the audience is not too far away from the stage, so that the balcony overhangs are deep, causing potential dead zones and signally trouble for the seats underneath.”
To combat this problem, sound-transparent balconies, with grillwork rather than solid fronts, were created to allow sound to pass through to the seats below. “This couples those seats into the room,” says Holden. “The seats under the balconies do not feel as if there is a ceiling over your head. In fact, we did a test, and if you walk from the stage toward the back wall with your eyes closed, you cannot tell by the sound when you are under the balcony. This is a real innovation.”
Cherry wood and Venetian plaster used in the design also enhance the acoustics in a hall that is wider than usual. “It is sacrosanct in natural acoustic halls that the room be no wider than 80', like Carnegie Hall,” Holden notes, “but Dell Hall is over 100' wide. We broke the rules, but since everyone in the audience is as close to the stage as possible, with 2,400 seats, the hall had to be wider. We compensated by stepping the side walls in planes to create the acoustic effects of a narrower hall.”
The sound system is cleverly hidden behind black grillwork that surrounds the proscenium arch. “It is completely integrated into the architecture, as they didn't want large loudspeakers hanging in full view during orchestra concerts,” says Holden. Hairel Enterprises provided all audio equipment.
The theatrical lighting system, as specified by FDA, takes advantage of lighting positions throughout the auditorium, including a followspot booth, catwalks at various distances from the stage, the mezzanine rail, box booms, and orchestra boxes. There are no dedicated electrics or lighting battens. Circuits over the stage are available at grid height and dropped down on six-circuit Socapex cables. Touring shows can bring in their own truss. JMEG was the lighting contractor, who sub-contracted to ETC, and the instruments were purchased through PRG's Dallas office.
Dimming circuits and Ethernet ports are distributed throughout the facility, with 12 ETCNet2 Portable DMX 2-Port Nodes for network access via a fiber optic backbone. This is a perfect example of the state-of-the-art nature of Long Center, in both Dell Hall and the Debra and Kevin Rollins Studio Theatre — a flexible black box with seating from 80 to 232 people — making it a handsome addition to the arts scene in Austin.
1 ETC Eos Control System
1 ETC Eos Wireless Remote Focus Unit
1 High End Systems Road Hog Full Boar
636 ETC Sensor+ Dimmers 2.4kW
18 ETC Sensor Dimmers 6kW
54 ETC Sensor High Rise Time Dimmers 2.4kW
42 ETC Non Dimmable Circuits 2.4kW
12 ETCNet2 Portable 2-Port DMX Nodes
16 High End Systems Studio Command 1200
250 ETC Source Four ERS (5°, 10°, 14°, 19°, 26°, 36°, 50°)
12 ETC Source Four 15-30° Zoom ERS
12 ETC Source Four 25-50° Zoom ERS
48 ETC Source Four PAR
18 Strand Lighting Fresnelite 8"
15 L&E Runt 4-Cell Cyc
12 L&E Zip Strip 40-Cell Cyc
24 Wybron 4" Coloram IT Scrollers
3 Lycian 1293 Xenon Followspots
1 Leon Audio 14-Channel Master Control Unit
1 Leon Audio 14-Channel Portable Master Control Unit
14 Leon Audio QLS-B Mk3 Cue Light Station
4 EAW KF737P Custom With QSC Audio CX902/1102 Amp
3 EAW KF730P With QSC CX902/1102 Amp
2 EAW MQM1343e Custom With QSC CX302/702 Amp
2 EAW MQM1364e With QSC CX302/702 Amp
2 EAW LF1410 Custom With QSC CX902 Amp
2 EAW MQM1394e With QSC CX302/702 Amp
4 EAW LF1815 Custom Sub Woofers With QSC CX1102 Amp
6 EAW UB12Se With QSC CX254 Amp
8 EAW UB52-JHA Custom With QSC CX404 Amp
8 EAW UB52 With QSC CX404 Amp
6 EAW UB52 With QSC CX404 Amp
4 EAW MK2394e With QSC CX502 Amp
2 EAW UB12Se With QSC CX404 Amp
4 EAW JFX88 With QSC CX702 Amp
4 EAW SM200iH With QSC CX702 Amp
4 EAW SM260iV With QSC CX702 Amp
1 Bag End S10e-1 With QSC CX404 Amp
4 Mackie HR624 Self-Powered
1 Yamaha PM5D-RH Console
1 Ashly Audio Protea 4.24G Graphic Equalizer
1 TC Electronic M3000 Studio Reverb Processor
1 Eventide Eclipse Effects Processor
1 HHB CDR830 Plus Burn It CD Recorder
1 Denon DN-T625 CD Player and Cassette Deck
1 Tascam MD-CD1 Minidisc and CD Player
1 Tascam MD-350 Minidisc Recorder
6 Shure SM57-LC Microphone
6 Shure SM58-LC Microphone
2 Shure SM81-LC Microphone
2 Shure Beta 87C Microphone
1 Shure Beta 98D/S Microphone
2 Electro-Voice RE 20 Microphone
4 Sennheiser MD421 II Microphone
10 AKG C 535 EB Handheld Condenser Microphone
10 BSS AR-133 Active DI
2 DPA SMK4061 Stereo Condenser Microphone Kit (matched pair)
2 AKG C 451 B Condenser Instrument Microphone
2 Audio-Technica ES935ML (ES935S/C) Condenser Gooseneck Microphone
2 Shure Beta 52A Kick Drum Microphone
4 Crown PCC-160 Boundary Microphone
6 Shure Beta 98D/S Condenser Percussion Microphone
4 Shure U124D/Beta87/Mke2 Wireless System
Sennheiser Infrared assisted listening system
Four-channel Clear-Com system:
2 Clear-Com V-BOX Portable Wall Station Box
8 Clear-Com RS-601 Remote Belt pack
2 Clear-Com RS-602 Remote Belt pack, 2 Channel
2 Beyerdynamic DT-109.28 400B Headset- Double Muff
2 Beyerdynamic DT-108.28 400B Headset- Single Muff
2 Clear-Com CC-260 Headset- Double Muff
6 Clear-Com CC-95 Headset- Single Muff
2 Clear-Com HS-6 Handset
1 Clear-Com TW-40 Walkie-Talkie Interface
4 Clear-Com WBS-670/4 Wireless
1 Whirlwind Press Power 2 Press Box
3 Whirlwind MS-12-0-NR-050-SS Microphone Sub Snake
2 Leviton 560P9W/50' 60A Pin and Sleeve Cable
2 Union Connector 56DBT-06122U-IG / 60A Pin and Sleeve Breakout Box (with 12 circuit breakers with two Edison connectors each)
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