A little ingenuity and a working knowledge of world concert hall history transformed a dated church sanctuary owned by Belmont University into a dazzling campus concert hall. Asked to repurpose the space and thinking about the room’s proportions, the architect and acoustical consultant realized they were looking at a space with the dimensional bones of one of Europe’s great “shoe-box” concert halls, Zurich’s Tonhalle. This presented the team with the exciting opportunity: to make a world-class concert hall out of mid-20th Century church space.

To adapt the sanctuary functionally and acoustically, the flooring on the main level was excavated to create a steeper rake for sightlines, and reflective hardwood flooring was added to reduce unnecessary acoustical absorption. By utilizing the attic and the increased floor rake, volume is increased roughly 1.5 times the original. The architectural coffered ceiling is acoustically transparent to take advantage of attic volume for the sound, while curved acoustic clouds and canted walls at the platform direct sound toward the audience.The original wooden seats in the balcony were removed, refurbished, and reinstalled. The prized original Aeolian-Skinner pipe organ, one of the last manufactured, was also refurbished for reuse.

By creatively raising the ceiling and lowering the seats, not only was the acoustic volume increased, but sightlines and intimacy were greatly enhanced in this building with “great bones.” The premier hall now provides superior learning opportunities for the university’s students, and a unique cultural experience for the community at large.

Photos: © Kyle Dreier Photography