Sander Architects

William M. Lowman Concert Hall

Sander Architects
9. July 2018
Photo: Sharon Risedorph

The relationship between architecture and music is a rich one, evident most famously in Goethe's assertion that "architecture is frozen music." Architects continue to find inspiration in music, especially when the building program aligns with music, as with this music hall for Idyllwild Arts Academy. Sander Architects looked to the music of Aphex Twin in the "topography" of panels inside the William M. Lowman Concert Hall. The architects answered a few questions about the project.

Project: ​William M. Lowman Concert Hall, 2017
Location: Idyllwild, California, USA
Client: Idyllwild Arts Academy / Idyllwild Arts Foundation
Architect: Sander Architects, LLC
Design Principal: Whitney Sander
Project Architects: Whitney Sander, Catherine Holliss
Project Manager: Adam Licht
Structural Engineer: Costa and Associates
Mechanical Engineer: Macasero Engineering
Electrical Engineer: JMD Engineering
Plumbing: Lampman and Associates
Landscape Architect: Z Freedman Landscape Design
Lighting Designer: Sander Architects
Interior Designer: Catherine Holliss
Contractor: Hamel Contracting, Inc.
Construction Manager: Tucker May
Theater: ARUP
Acoustical: Nick Antonio
Building Area: 10,000 sf

Photo: Sharon Risedorph

What were the circumstances of receiving the commission for this project?
Invited competition in two rounds: We presented a scheme that responded to the site in architectural and aesthetic terms, and was independently priced below the project budget.

Photo: Sharon Risedorph

Please provide an overview of the project.
The project began when Sander Architects won an invited competition to design the Idyllwild Performing Arts Center (IPAC), a new performing arts center for Idyllwild Arts Academy. The school is one of the country's top three high schools for the arts. The student body is represented by dozens of countries, including much of the Pacific Rim, South America and Europe. Sander Architects' site strategy was to place the Performing Arts Center to one side of an open lot, thereby creating a new green quad at the heart of campus. This quad also aligns with Lily Rock, the dominant geological feature in the Idyllwild Valley.

Photo: Sharon Risedorph

What are the main ideas and inspirations influencing the design of the building?
The Concert Hall is sheathed in rusted Cor-ten panels. The panels have an irregular topography derived from an abstracted musical phrase by composer Richard James, also known as Aphex Twin. This skin alludes to the music within the hall and to the landscape of folded rock and granite that makes up the surrounding mountains.

The interior of the hall gets its nickname “Hall of Trees” from the 4” x 8” ribs that arch up the sides and across the ceiling. They are slightly offset to evoke a forest of trees and to scatter the sound and create cleaner acoustics for the performers.

Photo: Sharon Risedorph

Was the project influenced by any trends in energy-conservation, construction, or design?
IPAC's structural system is composed of light-gauge metal building components and is an excellent example of Sander Architects' Hybrid Construction concept. All steel elements were manufactured off-site by existing steel building manufacturers using computer-controlled processes. The elements were made from 80% recycled steel, and were shipped to the site for easy bolt-together erection. Sander Architects has had success with this system in residential applications under the name Hybrid House; part prefab, all custom (TM). The extraordinary cost savings we have found with residences were even greater in IPAC, since the light-gauge steel building typically spans dozens or hundreds of feet, and is perfectly suited for this application.

Photo: Sharon Risedorph

What products or materials have contributed to the success of the completed building?
PEMB structural frames can be used in any size building, and are extremely economical and ecological. Folded Cor-ten panels are custom for this project, readily available, and can be shaped to our specific designs.

Email interview conducted by John Hill.

Photo: Sharon Risedorph
Photo: Sharon Risedorph
Site Plan (Drawing: Sander Architects)
Floor Plan (Drawing: Sander Architects)
Elevation (Drawing: Sander Architects)
Section (Drawing: Sander Architects)
Hall sketch (Drawing: Sander Architects)
Inspiration (Drawing: Sander Architects)

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