The gem of the College Community School District’s Prairie High School complex, the Concert Hall at College Community is a high-quality, 1000-seat performance and education facility. The Concert Hall is equipped throughout with features that allow the space to function as a musical, theatrical, meeting, and assembly venue.
The main floor consists of 750 seats, divided into main orchestra seating on a sloped floor and a loge seating section on risers at the rear. The configuration of the seating and aisle layout maximizes the number of seats at the center of the space. The design of the 250-seat balcony — featuring two side galleries — was inspired by European opera houses, projecting forward and bringing the balcony patrons very close to the stage.
The custom-fabricated sound shell consists of detailed towers and floating ceiling panels, all faced with wood veneer that matches the wood in the auditorium. It is one of the most striking features of the space. The sound shell is able to form different configurations to accommodate all sizes and specific types of ensembles performing. A portion of the back stage wall is finished to match the sound shell. When combined with side towers, this allows very large ensembles to sit on the full depth of the stage without compromising the visual continuity of the shell.
Rich Sapele wood veneer panels, accented by Birch, create a warm and elegant atmosphere. An integrated balcony façade and proscenium arch, combined with a custom wood-clad sound shell, work together to create one cohesive and encompassing space. Detailing patterns and consistent proportions carry throughout the building, from the sound shell to the lobby windows.
The school wanted to ensure every student was able to participate in every aspect of performance without being inhibited by physical limitations. Thus, the space is completely accessible to persons with physical handicaps. Flat side aisles allow anyone to access the stage without having to leave the auditorium. Wheelchair-designated seating is distributed evenly around the space, including in the balcony, which is accessible by an elevator.
The collaboration between OPN Architects and Threshold Acoustics resulted in a highly refined and tunable performance space. The conventional and cost-effective structure — CMU walls clad in brick and a steel-framed roof with a concrete deck — was improved in response to the proximity of the Interstate Highway and landing paths for the nearby regional airport. The walls surrounding the acoustic space were grouted solid and the concrete roof deck, typically only three or four inches thick on a normal building, was poured seven inches thick. This gave the entire envelope around the Concert Hall enough mass to adequately block out all the traffic and air noise.
Within the Concert Hall, each and every curve and angle of the walls was developed to maximize the acoustical performance and flexibility of the space. Solid-grouted CMU cheek walls clad in wood veneered panels — located immediately in front of the proscenium — and a complex series of floating reflector clouds hung overhead brilliantly project sound from the stage to all areas of the seating evenly.
“I am absolutely delighted with our new facility. It was fitting that the first event was the Holiday Concert because this is truly a wonderful gift from our community. Our young musicians are very fortunate to have such outstanding community support.”
— Dick Whitehead, Superintendent