When the Southbank Centre decided to refurbish three of their world-renowned arts spaces, Ramboll’s acoustics team were appointed to provide acoustic consultancy in all three venues.
The Southbank Centre is the largest arts centre in Europe. Approaching its 50th anniversary, it was decided that a complete refurbishment of the Festival Wing (sometimes known as the East Wing) was required to maintain its pre-eminent position in the arts world. The Festival Wing comprises the Queen Elizabeth Concert Hall, the Purcell Room and the Hayward Gallery. Once the Southbank Centre made the decision to refurbish, Ramboll’s acoustics team were appointed to provide acoustic consultancy on all three venues.
Queen Elizabeth Hall
The 1000 seat Queen Elizabeth Hall is the major musical performance space. In the 50 years since its opening the venue has played host to important names in classical, electronic, avante-garde and contemporary music, including Pink Floyd’s seminal ‘Games for May’ concert in 1967. The refurbishment work has involved stripping the hall of 50 years’ of accumulated grime, restoring it to its original design, while at the same time enhancing the acoustics to maintain its world-class standards. The work resulted in a major design exercise on the refurbishment of the original Helmholz resonators which line the walls, controlling the auditorium’s bass range. The stage was re-structured and acoustic lining added, enhancing the acoustic conditions for orchestras.
The Queen Elizabeth Hall re-opened on 9th April with a sell-out concert by the resident Chineke! Orchestra. Reviews for both the orchestra and the venue were equally positive, with the Guardian’s Tim Ashley saying “… the acoustic, always fine, strikes me as fractionally warmer than before. Chineke!... sounded wonderful in it”
The Purcell Recital Room is also a world-renowned music venue, hosting chamber music, jazz and mime events, as well as performers of the calibre of David Bowie, Daniel Barenboim and Marianne Faithfull. It has been refurbished in a similar vein, bringing it back to its original design intentions whilst providing it with up-to-date acoustic facilities.
The control of ventilation noise has been a key challenge in the refurbishment, as the new design of the system involved reversing the supply and extract paths, whilst maintaining silent operation. The ventilation supply is now under the seats, in line with current design convention, although the original concrete openings in the floor had to be retained. To ensure we achieved a silent operating system, a mock-up of the auditorium floor was installed in an acoustic test chamber, allowing the testing of a number of grilles and related parameters in order to achieve optimal aural design.
The Hayward gallery re-opened in January 2018 with a retrospective of photographer Andreas Gursky. An iconic contemporary art gallery, Ramboll’s role was to enhance the user experience by creating a comfortable aural environment, protected from external noise in this vibrant and bustling part of London.