ACOUSTIC WALL PANELS GIVE VIRTUOSO PERFORMANCE

In September 2007, the internationally renowned Cork School of Music in Ireland opened a new purpose-built facility. The building covered 12,900 square metres, cost 60 million euros and was home to the world’s largest single order of Steinway baby grand pianos (54). As would be expected, the design of the sound environment in the new school received the utmost attention, with Ecophon playing its part by supplying 830 square metres of wall panels for the 52 teaching/practice studios.

Acoustic consultant Applied Acoustic Design was charged with optimising the sound quality in the music tuition rooms, which meant solving the problem of excessive reverberation. Acoustic ceiling tiles were not a possibility as the building design required plastered ceilings. So their options were limited: sound absorbent wall panels, carpets and making the rooms asymmetric (without parallel walls) to reduce the echo.

“Initially, we tried to make our own wall panels by stretching fabric over a wire mesh - but the quality just wasn’t there.” explains Ralph Bingham, Director of leading Irish architect, Murray Ó Laoire, who had overall responsibility for the building’s design and construction. “When we looked into acoustic wall panels it was obvious that Ecophon was a major manufacturer.”

Ecophon supplied Texona wall panels in light grey, medium grey and dark grey along with concealed installation grids. With a textured finish, Texona is the most aesthetically-pleasing wall panel in the Ecophon range. The panels were delivered in the standard size of 2700mm by 600mm and cut to shape on site by the contractor. Different shapes were created in the many teaching rooms for variety, including some which mimicked piano keys. The panel edges were finished with black and aluminium trim.

Applied Acoustic Design determined the best position on the walls for the panels by playing an instrument in various places in a room and measuring the resulting reverberation. Detachable whiteboards used on top of the panels meant the practice rooms could easily become teaching environments, and also provided some control over sound absorption. By covering the sound-absorbing panels with the reflective whiteboards reverberation could be increased on occasion for a particular instrument or performance.

“We were pleased with the robust quality and effectiveness of the Ecophon wall panels,” commented Ralph Bingham following the installation.

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