New Construction Awards 2005: Building Harmony

Sept. 30, 2005
Honorable Mention: The Music Center at Strathmore, North Bethesda, MD

Hoping to create a “community of music” in North Bethesda, MD, the members of the Montgomery County Council, along with the Strathmore Hall Foundation, commissioned Tishman Construction Corp. to construct The Music Center at Strathmore. Completed in February 2005, the 190,000-square-foot Music Center (containing a concert hall and education center) boasts two world-class music facilities that not only connect patrons with performers, but also one generation with the next.

The outstanding structures don’t actually “stand out,” but rather sit comfortably beside Strathmore Hall (a historic 1914 mansion) and imitate the surrounding rolling hills with the center’s unique undulating roof.

To compete with other exceptional facilities, the $89-million Music Center needed the latest acoustical technology. Although almost every element of construction was built with acoustical capabilities in mind, the critical acoustical features in the hall and practice studios included:

  • Isolated walls on floating track systems.
  • Floors supported by neoprene pads.
  • Ceilings suspended on spring isolators.
  • The precise positioning and angling of the walls, roof, and ceiling.
  • Sound-absorbing curtains behind panels along the walls of the hall.
  • Banners above the ceiling that can be deployed or retracted.
  • A sloped ceiling, with the highest point over the audience, to maximize acoustical volume.
  • Forty-three individually controlled acrylic reflector panels over the stage to fine-tune clarity and reverberation.
  • Noiseless cooling through registers notched into the hardwood floor at every seat.

Along with superior sound quality, designers William Rawn Associates and Grimm & Parker Architects set out to create an intimate concert hall setting that would connect patrons with performers. The 1,976 seats were positioned to “hug” the stage by linking side galleries with audience and chorus seating.

The education center was also intentionally designed with a sense of community in mind; four expansive rehearsal spaces are often used by the public. The education center not only involves the area’s patrons, but more specifically, encourages the next generation of musicians to fulfill the Strathmore Hall Foundation’s mission statement as posted on its website: “The Strathmore Hall Foundation nurtures art, artists, and community through creative and diverse programming of the highest quality.”

Lauren M. Wylly served as editorial intern at Buildings magazine.

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