New Haven, CT
This project is the result of a long and deep collaboration with our visionary client, a jazz pianist and music producer. The work has been performed in two phases. Phase One included the painstaking refurbishment and stabilization of a historic 1905 fire station, a brick shell that had been abandoned for decades, into which were inserted a live room/recording studio that doubles as a performance space, a green room, offices, a bar and small kitchen, and an apartment. Phase Two includes the addition of a musician’s hostel on top of the brick structure, a prefabricated cross-laminated timber box that was placed atop the firehouse to accommodate musicians residing in the building during recording.
The 85 seat proscenium performance space doubles as an acoustically isolated soundstage with full technical infrastructure of isolation booths and control room. A particular design challenge lay in the dual purpose of the “live room” and its conflicting acoustical requirements: for recording, the space must be acoustically dead, while for performance, the room’s reverberant character is important. Using prototypes of material and assembly systems produced in our workshop, we developed a continuous plywood shell that transforms along its surface to create opposing acoustic conditions keyed to specific areas: at the back of the proscenium stage, the plywood shell splits and distorts to act as a diffuser; above the primary recording area at the center of the room, it undulates to refract high frequency sound. From the lobby, the plywood shell forms the exterior of the auditorium, providing a kind of internal “marquee” for the theater that wraps down to create the ceiling of the basement bar.
Within the relatively small volume of the former firehouse, a series of public and private spaces weave throughout the building and around the central sound space. An entrance lobby at the street opens down into a public cafe and bar amid the firehouse’s stone foundations below, where a new massive board formed concrete stair structure and carved buttresses resist the heavy vehicular loads from the street above. At the back of the recording studio are a “green room” for performers and an office for the owner and studio manager. Above the sound space, under the restored six foot deep structural timber roof trusses, we added a 2nd floor two-bedroom apartment and roof terrace. The curving birch plywood shells that snake through the building’s multiple levels function alternately as spatial dividers and light and sound reflectors, giving the interiors lightness and warmth to contrast the dark brick walls of the original building and providing architectural continuity and a transformed identity for the building.