Sound Space Vision revitalises St John’s
Tuesday, 11 September 2018
gardenquadauditoriumincluding-forestage-smlThe College’s aim was to make the room more comfortable, with improved sightlines and acoustics (photo: David Fisher)
UK - Sound Space Vision joined forces with architect Alan Berman and Berman Guedes Stretton to deliver a revitalised Garden Quad Auditorium to better serve the needs of St John’s College’s busy calendar of events. The newly modernised Garden Quad Auditorium begins its season of events this autumn.
The College’s aim was to make the room more comfortable, with improved sightlines and acoustics, wheelchair access to both the seats and the stage, and reduced services noise whilst maintaining a seat count of at least 180. There was also a desire to bring the lecturer/performer closer to the audience, and a need for the auditorium’s technical, production and acoustics capabilities to match a busy calendar of lectures and musical events of all kinds.
Sound Space Vision (SSV) joined architect Alan Berman to develop a new interior form which met these requirements, with Marion Brereton of architects Berman Guedes Stretton (BGS) taking it through to detail and completion.
The result is an auditorium that has been shortlisted for the AJ Retrofit Awards 2018 (Higher and Further Education).
After a thorough assessment by SSV of the acoustics, technical systems and the spatial aspects of communication and intimacy, Berman and SSV took a holistic approach, developing a new interior form while remaining respectful of the original architecture. SSV and BGS worked together to integrate the new acoustics, audio, lighting, and seating into the revered original as well as the modernised, revitalised architecture
The newly re-raked floor and more intimate seating design has enhanced the sightlines and acoustics, and a mechanical forestage can extend the stage area, improving the connection between the stage and audience and offering wider presentational possibilities. The forestage can also be lowered so the area can be used as an orchestra pit for musical theatre.
The raked and curved seating shape in the Auditorium, along with light green seat material, pale oak flooring and accents, and a new lighting scheme, has refreshed the hall’s overall aspect and tone. Improvements to the ventilation system add to the hall’s comfort while an underseat air displacement system recommended by SSV and engineered by Maleon distributes a constant supply of air evenly and quietly, replacing the previously noisy, inefficient system.
Theatrical and performance goals have been met by creating production lighting positions and introducing new dimming systems, LED lighting, and an integrated all-digital sound system for lectures, drama and musical events. At the specific request of the Client, the SSV team developed an integrated open-control position for the production desk at the rear of the audience to maintain the view of the art-glass screen designed by renowned artist Alexander Belschenko at the back of the Auditorium.
“The success of this beautiful hall reflects our very measured approach to balancing alterations and integrating them with the existing heritage architecture to create a space that has elegance, comfort and exceptional function and sound,” says Anne Minors, design principal, Sound Space Vision.
Central to the College’s brief was a desire for the Auditorium to be used for performance activities unachievable in the original hall, particularly chamber music and musical theatre.
SSV evolved the room shape to counteract the acoustically dead space caused by the existing low ceiling height and central dome, removed the carpeting, and chose materials specifically to match both the physical needs of the Client and the acoustic requirements.
(Jim Evans)

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