Dual Functionality Serves Students

As part of a new residence hall in the heart of Boston, the Berklee College of Music desired a space that would serve as a dining area by day and a performance venue for students by night.


The dual function of the residence hall needed both aesthetics and acoustics as key considerations in its design. To meet the challenge, the design team at William Rawn Assocs., Architects in Boston created the “Caf,” a two-story, 400-seat space featuring a 32-ft.-high ceiling, a gracefully curved second floor balcony, and a floor-to-ceiling glass wall overlooking busy Massachusetts Ave.


According to designer Brian Putnam, the design team wanted to impart a dynamic quality to the space to complement its urban setting.


One way the team accomplished its goal was the use of MetalWorks Torsion Spring panels from Armstrong Ceiling Solutions in a custom red color in the ceiling and custom MetalWorks WH100 panels on the wall. “Red was chosen because it’s the school color and both eye-catching and highly visible from the street,” he states. MetalWorks panels were selected for the ceiling and wall because of their high-tech, sophisticated look. The light weight of the aluminum panels and their Ceiling & Wall Panels durability were also considerations. “Torsion Spring panels were chosen for the ceiling because they have no exposed grid and still allow accessibility where needed,” Putnam adds. The ceiling panels are installed in a series of clouds that mirror the contour of the balcony’s “ribbon wall.” Putnam explains the balcony wall features sweeping curves in order to redirect sound. “We needed to deflect sound so that it did not bounce straight back to the glass wall behind the performers,” he says. All of the metal panels in the ceiling and wall are perforated and backed with a fiberglass infill for acoustic control. The “ribbon wall” consists of three rows of Metal-Works panels stacked on top of each other. Because of the wall’s curved design, all the panels had to be custom sized at the manufacturing plant. The panels are all the same height but have different widths depending on the radius and arc length. Some panels are only a foot wide in order to traverse a tight curve. In total, 350 panels were installed.

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