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Pitch Perfect: Wooden Panel Acoustic Solution for MIT's New Lecture Theatre

Part of the Manukau City Centre Tertiary Campus and Transport Interchange project, the lecture theatre was designed to attract and engage the community by providing an intimate space for small scale events – complementing the larger Pacific Events Centre located nearby.

Project architects Warren and Mahoney worked extensively with acoustic consultants Marshall Day to design an acoustic panel system that met both aesthetic and performance requirements. Diamond shaped, the panels make reference to the diagrid on the building's exterior while varying angles along the edge of each panel enhance intelligibility of speech and reflect sound from the main stage in several directions, distributing it evenly throughout the theatre.   

Auckland specialist timber fabricator Woodform was contracted to manufacture, supply and install 224 panels, comprising 107 "standard diamonds" 1800 high x 800 across and 117 especially shaped panels to be used as infills along the theatre's sloping ceiling and staircase. The panels were to be installed with a 10mm negative detail between each.  

"It wasn't a straightforward wall finish and the project presented a range of manufacture and installation challenges which Woodform worked with us to resolve," said project architect Mike Jackson. "We needed accuracy and certainty as to where the panels were positioned as we were integrating other elements such as a handrail along the stairs."

To maintain a tolerance of less than 1mm while working with variations in the substrate (where tolerances can be greater), Woodform created a template for every panel from 3mm MDF. A pattern for each template was then lasered onto the 12mm ply substrate to which each template was attached in sequence. While the templates were in place, the substrate was painted black to highlight the 10mm negative detail. Once the accuracy of the panel positions was established, Woodform fabricated a replica of every template using Southland Maple Beech – a sustainable New Zealand timber used for decorative finishes throughout the project.    

"The methodology for fixing the panels was also something we worked through extensively with the team at Woodform," Mike adds. "Our original idea was to attach the panels to split rails but the success of this system relied on a perfectly straight substrate. Furthermore it meant that in the event of a panel being damaged, whole rows of panels would need to be removed to access the damaged panel." Woodform developed a screw and clamp system that accommodated any misalignments and allowed the panels to be attached, removed or replaced individually should one be damaged.

The result is fantastic and demonstrates the value of a successful collaboration between project partners Mike said. "Hawkins Construction were excellent at accommodating requirements, however the effort from the Woodform Team – the planning, templating, presentation of shop drawings – and his huge experience and practical knowledge helped ensure we achieved the aesthetic expression we wanted."   

Project architects:  Warren and Mahoney

Main contractor:  Hawkins Construction

Acoustic consultants:  Marshall Day Acoustics

View more information on Woodform Australasia Limited, including contact details.
October 2014 EBOSSNOW Case Studies
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