Opening National Sawdust in New York by Bureau V

National Sawdust

National Sawdust
Photo © Floto + Warner

National Sawdust is a resource for young musicians and composers of new classical, jazz and experimental music to perform and record their work. Opening October 1st, 2015 in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, National Sawdust houses an acoustically-driven chamber music hall consisting of a double-height space with surrounding balcony that will seat approximately 200 patrons.

National Sawdust
Photo © Floto + Warner

Conceived as a facetted jewel set within the rough brick envelope of a former sawdust factory, the venue seeks to combine the historic European concert hall model with the late barebones blackbox model, where the crafted beauty of the former meets good experimental programming and roughness of the latter. Bureau V worked closely with acoustics and theatre teams at Arup, to devise an acoustically-driven chamber hall with a wrap-around balcony that accommodates 170 patrons in row seating, 120 patrons in cabaret seating, or up to 350 standing guests.

National Sawdust
Photo © Floto + Warner

With variable stage configurations that can be lowered flush with the floor, the double-height venue can also hold a 70-piece orchestra for rehearsals and recordings. With Arup’s acoustics team, Bureau V devised a custom skin that wraps the interior, made of perforated metal and fabric composite panels supported by an intricate network of recessed channels. This skin system remains visually translucent yet acoustically transparent, enabling sound to travel through it freely, while generating a wrap-around sculptural enclosure, which creates a seamless experience for a wide repertoire of performance. Bureau V wrote a series of custom software programs to help navigate and optimize this complex, three-dimensional interior membrane.

National Sawdust
Photo © Floto + Warner

This elision of design and technology allowed for the aesthetic and formal design to be thoroughly integrated with the critical requirements of the space. The hall’s formal shape, structure, A/V infrastructure, spatial acoustic strategy, lighting requirements, and perforation pattern became one architectural system. The chamber hall will feature custom chairs designed by Bureau V, which combine audience and musician ergonomics with the aesthetics of the project. Upon entering the building, patrons first encounter a double-height, sculptural lobby space illuminated by a custom marble and neon chandelier designed by Bureau V.

National Sawdust
Photo © Floto + Warner

As the house opens, a 10ft x 10ft acoustically-rated, vertically-sliding door ascends to reveal the chamber hall. The door then closes to seal the room acoustically prior to performances. The building will also house two bars and a restaurant, also designed by Bureau V, featuring James Beard Award-winning chef Patrick Connolly. With acoustics, audio-visual and theatre designed by Arup, National Sawdust provides an intimate and enveloping audience experience, with an optimized balance of variable sound absorbing, diffusing, and reflecting surfaces, and state-of-the-art performance, recording, and broadcast technology.

National Sawdust
Photo © Floto + Warner

The result is a rich auditory experience to accommodate a range of repertoire, both amplified and unamplified. The chamber hall is housed in a solid concrete shell floating on spring isolators. This “box-in box” construction allows the entire space to achieve the low background noise levels consistent with the world’s finest recording studios (PNC 15). In addition, the building is connected via audio, video, and data tie lines. This point-to-point infrastructure allows an engineer to be situated in either the sound and light control room or the production room and record artists in all the interior spaces. Source by Bureau V.

National Sawdust
Photo © Floto + Warner

Location: Brooklyn, New York, USA
Architects: Bureau V
Architect of Record: Slab Architecture
Structural Engineer: Liam O’Hanlon Engineering
Mechanical, Electrical, and Plumbing Engineer: Plus Group Consulting Engineering, PLLC
Client: National Sawdust
Year: 2015
Photographs: Floto + Warner, Courtresy of Bureau V

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *