The Music Center at Strathmore

Clark's attention to budget, construction detail, solving architectural design issues, site development, and difficult access challenges was exemplary every step of the way.
Eilot Pfansteihl, Chief Executive Officer, Strathmore Hall Foundation, Inc.
Location: 
Bethesda, Maryland
Client: 
Strathmore Hall Foundation, Inc. & Montgomery County
Architect: 
William Rawn Associates, Architects, Inc.
Contract Value: 
$74,300,000
Size: 
195,000 Square Feet
Year Completed: 
2004

Sited on 11 acres, the Music Center at Strathmore is 195,000 square feet and seats 1,976 patrons in the Concert Hall. It also includes an Education Center with classrooms and rehearsal space. The architectural, structural, and mechanical design of the entire building was determined by the requirements of the acoustic engineer. The shape of the floor, walls, and roof, the wood flooring, and even the type of paint were all dictated by the acoustic specifications.

At its highest point, the Music Center at Strathmore is 108 feet tall. The predominant element is a 700-foot-long covered arcade which snakes alongside the west side of the building. It ends in the lobby, looking out into the park-like grounds through a 65-foot, towering, beveled glass curtain wall. The design team reduced the scale of the structure by adding smaller parts to the long rectangle of the Concert Hall, making the Education Center read as a separate building.

The Concert Hall features an elongated S-shaped roof with a fa├žade clad in cream-colored beige and gray limestone accentuated by large glass window walls. The hall's concrete walls are 16 inches thick to improve acoustics. An adjustable bank of acoustic clouds is hung above the platform and highlights the long, graceful curve of the roof. The design of the hall features three tiers. Unusual for an American concert hall, projecting balcony seating extends alongside and behind the stage.

The mechanical systems are constructed to achieve acoustic excellence. The air handlers were isolated from the structure with springs and neoprene pads. The ductwork in the mechanical room is encased in gypsum wallboard to prevent sound transmission through the mechanical system. All ductwork is hung on vibration isolators, which is necessary to achieve the acoustical standards of a concert hall, and surrounded by acoustical caulks.

A state-of-the-art theater equipment system accommodates the variety of performances at the Music Center. Each of the 98 motors used in the theater equipment throughout the building was designed, built and installed to vary the acoustics within the concert hall. A unique main control system was designed, and every piece of machinery has a component that feeds back to a centralized location. This allows the sound engineer to control each piece of machinery throughout the building with a hand-held touch-screen device.

Awards: 
ABC Metro Washington - Excellence in Construction Awards, Institutional $8 Million+
ACI National Capital Chapter - Concrete Construction Award, Concrete Structure
AIA Northern Virginia Chapter - Award of Excellence, Institutional Architecture
Metropolitan Washington Building Industry Association - Finest in Family Living Award
NAIOP Maryland/D.C. Chapter - Award of Excellence, Best Institutional Facility
WBC Craftsmanship Award - Cast-in-Place Concrete
WBC Craftsmanship Award - Electrical/Lighting Systems
WBC Craftsmanship Award - Special Construction/Other/Theater Equipment
WBC Craftsmanship Award - Thermal and Moisture Protection
Washington Business Journal's Best Real Estate Deals - Architecture