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How a Brooklyn Venue Rewrote the Rules for Concert Halls

During a recent tour of National Sawdust, a high-tech new concert hall in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, a lone musician was seated behind a piano, playing the hauting theme song from Twin Peaks. Normally, that would be the cue for some surreal Lynchian visual to begin. But after wandering inside the performance space to see where the song was coming from, it was immediately apparent that the music was actually the most normal thing about the intimate venue. For a space devoted to audio performances, it offers quite a striking visual. A beautiful, beguiling series of black lines and white shapes, metal panels delicately inlaid with kinetic patterns, run across the walls, a design scheme that suggests Zaha Hadid imagining the future of wallpaper. The "stage," as it were, is just a flat surface, with a balcony looming above. It looks nothing like a traditional concert space or chamber hall. According to Stella Lee, a principal of architecture firm Bureau V, and Raj Patel, principal of the acoustics division at the engineering firm Arup, that was by design. Given an opportunity to reimagine what a concert venue can be in the 21st century, the architects and engineers literally redesigned it from the ground up—which, considering that they had to contend with a subway line a block away, is as much a statement of fact as a cliche.

More looks inside the space >>