Beauty and Function
Innovative upgrades make Rubendall Recital Hall shine
by MaryAlice Bitts Jackson
October 26, 2011
Philadelphia Orchestra Concertmaster David Kim played to a packed house in the newly renovated Rubendall Recital Hall.
Form and function marry—and yes, create beautiful music together—at the Rubendall Recital Hall in the Weiss Center for the Arts, thanks to renovations that have dramatically enhanced the hall’s sound quality and design.
The renovated space was unveiled Oct. 11 during a concert by David Kim, concertmaster of the Philadelphia Orchestra. Kim—who also holds the orchestra’s Benjamin Rush chair—commented that he was pleased to present the first official concert in the newly remodeled hall, saying, “It’s a beautiful space.”
Of course, that beauty was not effortless, noted Ken Shultes ’89, associate vice president for campus operations and director of facilities management. “Inside the concert hall, it was a total gut-and-rebuild project,” he said of the acoustic design by Mark Penz of Kirkegaard Associates.
Improvements include soundproof walls, a raised ceiling, new wooden seating selected for its sound reflectivity and a beautifully refinished stage floor that enhances both sound and design. The hall also boasts an improved sound system and sound booth, new lights and a ceiling-mounted data projector for multimedia performances.
To accommodate the sound requirements of both concerts and spoken performances, the design includes sound-reflecting, ingeniously constructed stage dividers. These versatile panels allow performers to customize the structure of the performance space according to a given performance’s tonal quality and dynamics range.
A “beautiful reality”
But the changes aren’t simply utilitarian. Designer Dusty Rhoads created a bold, contemporary recital hall, complemented by a lobby that prepares visitors for the visual drama to come.
The staircase that once spiraled up from the Weiss Center lobby to the second floor is now gone. This not only eliminates foot-traffic noise that once leaked into the performance hall but also makes way for open social spaces that feature modernist furniture and lighting. Two stainless steel doors frame a lighted sign that proudly proclaims the recital hall’s name.
Inside the hall, mid-century modern chandeliers are balanced by windows that warm up the space with slivers of natural light. Because the windows are tall and very thin, the glass panes do not interfere with soundproofing or sound quality.
Perhaps the most intriguing visual touch is embedded in the concert hall’s wall panels. Close inspection reveals a subtle, abstract relief of an aerial view of the campus. “This is a unique and bold design element that sets the stage for the performances to come,” says Blanka Bednarz, associate professor and chair of music.
Visual cues such as these, in concert with technical upgrades that improve acoustics, create a heightened experience for performers and audience members. They also help attract even more talented students to campus, says Bednarz.
“Rubendall is the primary musical performance space at Dickinson,” she explains. “We have a very strong music program, but that wasn’t necessarily reflected in the music facilities. Now, when prospective students visit, they will be able to see the quality of the music education reflected in this beautiful, modern, state-of-the-art concert hall. It is very gratifying. ... I’m thankful to all who made the renovation a beautiful reality.”