Berklee College of Music | Acoustics & Aesthetics

The Challenge:

As part of its new 16-story, multi-use residence hall in the heart of Boston, the Berklee College of Music desired a space that would serve as a dining area during the day and a performance venue at night. Because of this dual function, both aesthetics and acoustics were key considerations in its design.  

The Solution:

To meet the challenge, the design team created the “Caf,” a two-story, 400-seat space featuring a 32-foot high ceiling, a gracefully curved second floor balcony, and a floor-to-ceiling glass wall overlooking busy Massachusetts Avenue.

According to designer Brian Putnam, the design team wanted to impart a dynamic quality to the space to complement its urban setting. One way it accomplished that was the use of METALWORKS Torsion Spring panels from Armstrong in a custom red color in the ceiling and custom METALWORKS WH1100 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 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 panels in the ceiling and wall are perforated and backed with a fiberglass infill for acoustic control.

The wall panels are also custom sized because of the curvilinear nature of the wall’s design. The panels are all the same height but have different widths depending on the radius and arc length. In total, 350 panels were installed.

“To create the space we desired, we knew we would be heavily reliant on the ceiling and wall surfaces, both in terms of aesthetics and acoustics,” Putnam states. “It’s amazing how much of a signature element they have become.”

Project: Berklee College of Music

Location: Boston, MA

Architect: William Rawn Associates, Architects, Boston, MA

Products: METALWORKS Torsion Spring