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BOSTON, MASS. Berklee College of Music opened the doors to its 160 Massachusetts Avenue, residence tower in January 2014. The building now features one of the largest, most progressive, and versatile professional audio teaching/production/performance complexes in the U.S. Over three years and $100 million have been invested in the development and construction of this cusp point educational compound. Situated over four dedicated floors in a striking, sixteen-story, 155,000 sq. ft. William Rawn Associates building, the ten-studio Walters-Storyk Design Group – designed, audio education component represents a pinnacle of contemporary studio planning.
A commanding floor-to-ceiling glass wall overlooking Massachusetts Ave. distinguishes the 21,400 sq. ft., 400-seat ‘Berklee Café.’ Originally conceived as a student-dining hall, early in the design phase, Berklee senior staff recognized an opportunity to utilize the space (replete with a 38’ high ceiling, and a gracefully curved, 2nd floor balcony), as a live performance/recording venue for students. WSDG was tasked with devising optimal acoustical treatments for the showplace and with providing total connectivity to multiple control rooms throughout the 23,800 sq. ft.’ A & B level, recording education complex. Nightly student performances began in January, quickly establishing the room as a superb talent platform and (not incidentally), an outstanding ‘live recording room.’
“WSDG has not only designed many of the world’s best studios, they closely monitor the smallest construction details to insure that they are built to impeccable standards,” states Roger H. Brown, President, Berklee College of Music. “We are delighted with the outcome, both in the studios they designed for our campus in Valencia, Spain and with this new suite of studios in our 160 Massachusetts Avenue building. Berklee students deserve the best, and now they have the best.”
Two stories below the Café, on Level A, the 2200 sq. ft. Studio 1 features a 1300 sq. ft., 13’/h, live room designed to accommodate an orchestra of up to 50 musicians. As the largest 160 Mass studio, this cutting edge recording/mixing suite includes: a 600 sq. ft. Control Room for classes of up to 16 students, and two oversized 110 sq. ft. ISO rooms. Extremely useful for multi artist recording projects, they compliment the WSDG-designed studios at the Berklee Valencia campus.
“Our Basel, Switzerland-based partners, Dirk Noy and Gabriel Hauser ran extensive auditory simulation and modeling tests to establish optimal acoustics for the performance café, the studios, and the critical listening environments,” reports WSDG Co-Principal/ Interior Designer, Beth Walters. “160 Mass. incorporates architectural elements and acoustic treatments which epitomize our 40+ years of studio design experience. These rooms are World Class.”
“Studio 1 engaged a number of innovative design elements,” reports WSDG Partner/ Project Manager, Romina Larregina. “Because it is clearly a ‘star’ attraction, Berklee College of Music President, Roger Brown and the executive team envision an on-going series of student tours through the complex. Faculty members were concerned that the panoramic 12’/w x 5’/h corridor window into the live room might prove a distraction to student musicians. To ameliorate this anticipated problem, WSDG recommended fitting the window with clear glass Quadratic Residue Diffusers. These custom-built treatments were precisely calibrated to diffuse the studio’s frequency range. Joined together as a single ‘sill-to-top’ installation they enhance the live rooms’ acoustics, provide visitors with an expansive view, and maintain the privacy required by working student musicians.
“The 1500 sq. ft. Studio 2 was designed for smaller ensemble recording projects, and features a 120 sq. ft. ISO Booth, and 360 sq. ft. Control Room,” Larregina continues. “The Lee Kennedy Co. Inc. contractors deserve tremendous credit for their contribution to this project. Each studio represents the latest word in room-within-room construction. Each studio is acoustically de-coupled and allows for zero tolerance in terms of sound leakage,” she adds.
Level A also features one of two 120 sq. ft. ‘tiered’ Central Machine Rooms (CMR), which represent a formidable achievement in ‘enhanced connectivity.’ “Due to the extensive amount of technology required by 160 Mass., we split the distribution within two fully integrated rooms, The Level A CMR is positioned directly above the Level B CMR,” Larregina explains. “This vertical configuration was extremely logical. Our long-time Systems Design & Integration Specialist Judy Elliott-Brown accomplished literal miracles in one of the most challenging wiring projects we have ever encountered.”
A twenty-five year WSDG veteran, Elliott-Brown has been involved with the 160 Mass. Ave. project since the project was awarded in 2011. Tasked with routing, running and connecting upwards of 100,000 feet of analog audio, video, CAT-6 and speaker wire with over 30,000 connections via some 5500 individual connectors throughout the three-floor recording, producing, mixing and teaching complex, Elliott-Brown considers 160 Mass one of the most complex assignments of her career, (a track record that includes NYC’s Jazz At Lincoln Center; SF’s Ex’pression College of Digital Arts; Village Studios, Guangzhou, China; and NYU’s James L. Dolan, Music Recording Studio/Teaching Complex). Collaborating with Berklee College of Music Chief Engineer Burt Price, and Jerry Smith, Senior Director of Technology for the Writing and T