In 2008 Shahira H. Fahmy ARCHITECTS was assigned the interior architecture work for the Department of Performing and Visual Arts theatre as a consultant for CDC and SASAKI architects. The theatre is an integral part of the educational facilities and was initially designed as an interactive space to teach the students about acoustics by adapting a variety of sound configurations.
The challenge was to design an arena that would suit this very specific educational purpose whilst also remaining within a comparatively low budget. Finally, due to financial constraints the final project did not include all the original plans but fulfilled the use of the space. The design concept had initially incorporated the side walls as an interactive feature; unfolding to adjust the acoustical performance of the space and to work as an experimental laboratory for the various performance classes. The potential movement of the walls would also create a dynamic and varying experience for the users.
Speech requires a shorter reverberation time than music and controlling this can be accomplished through the layout of different materials in the space. The walls of the theatre had cavities created by the rhythm of the existing columns; the initial design incorporated these cavities into small reflective chambers behind the main absorptive wooden walls which were divided to multiple rotating panels. The different pieces of the wall could be maneuvered to control the amount of sound reaching the reflective interior of the chamber; thus changing the amount of echoes and the sound experience. The students could therefore interact with the space and adapt it to their specific needs changing both light and sound for each performance. The ceiling’s exposed granted access to adjust light and the walls would alter the reverberation time of sound.
The PVA theatre was commended in March 2010 by World Architecture News for projects in the Education sector.