Studio Bell: Architecture that makes music
Commissioned by Canada's NationalMusic Centre as part of an ambitious vision to create a world-classexhibition of musical innovation and technology, Studio Bell is a new landmark building for Calgary that's designed to resonate with its audiences – literally. We headed to East Village to see (and hear) it for ourselves.
Architectural design work for the CAD $191 million, 160,000 sq ft (14,864 sq m) facility wasawarded to Allied Works Architecture following an internationalcompetition. The firm worked in collaboration with a team ofconsultants including award-winning acoustic specialists JaffeHolden.
As the home of Canada's National Music Centre, Studio Bell is more than a museum. It houses five floors of exhibitionspace, radio broadcast facilities, acoustic and electronic recordinglaboratories and a 300-seat performance space. There's over 400 artifacts and objects from the National MusicCentre's impressive collection, spanning over 450 years of musictechnology and innovation. Notable among them is TONTO (TheOriginal New Timbral Orchestra), one of thelargest multi-timbralpolyphonic analog synthesizers in the world, which was used to record albums by Stevie Wonder and The Isley Brothers in the1970s. It's also home to the Rolling Stones Mobile Recording Studio (RSM) which wasused to record albums by Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple, as well as the Stones.
The building itself rises over two city blocks, using nine interlocking towersas its key anchor points. It features a pedestrian walkway elevated 65 ft (19.8 m) above a busyroadway below and a dramaticentryway that opens up into a five-story space that follows the contours and curves of the building's exterior. These acoustical "canyons" are designed echo the formand acoustical function found within musical instruments.
"The building is ﬁlled with the reverberation of voices andmusic, drawing visitors up into ﬁve ﬂoors of performance,exhibit, and collections spaces," syas Brad Cloepﬁl,Principal, Allied Works Architecture. "The building is a powerfulinstrument that exists to emanate music and light. The walls, clad interra cotta, rise in subtle curves that merge, part, and intertwine,modeled by light, gravity, and acoustics."
Cloepfil is referring to the 220,000 glazed terra cotta tiles thatprovide much of the acoustic and aesthetic success of the building.Both the interior and exterior walls are clad with thespecially-commissioned tiles, with spacing and placement determined through computer modeling.
"We tried severalscenarios where we created slots between the tiles of variousdistances and filled the cavities with various depths of fiberglasssound absorbing batting," explains Russ Cooper, Principal,Acoustics for Jaffe Holden. "Our goal was to attenuate sound byhalf if possible at all frequencies from the lobby to the topgallery. In order to achieve this we needed to have a low frequencyslot absorbing system, similar to a Helmholtz resonator. This meant a smaller slot opening and a thick insulation. For midand high frequency absorption, the opening between tiles is greaterand the insulation thinner."
The design team was also challenged to incorporate and revitalize thehistoric King Edward Hotel, one of Calgary's oldest buildings and alegendary Blues club that occupied part of the development site. The Eddy's brick façade was meticulously disassembled,each brick numbered, then restored and resurrected as a local live music venue. The hotel also houses one of NMC's key artifacts, the aforementioned Rolling Stones Mobile Recording Studio, which is currentlyundergoing restoration before being made available for useby musicians taking part in the NMC's Artist-in-Residence program in 2017.
Studio Bell opened its doors to the public in July, and the finishing touches are due to be completed in October. If you don't happen to be traveling to Alberta anytime soon, take a quick tour of this intriguing building in our photo gallery.