BMC, PLATT Relationship Continues With New Hall
Last updated 10/5/2021 at 8:43am
In the late 1970s, when Al Platt was beginning his career as an architect, one of his early commissions involved the design of a residence for visiting artists at Brevard Music Center. Al didn't know it, but the "Composer's Cottage" would become the foundation for a relationship with Brevard Music Center spanning more than 40 years and over 30 projects.
The most ambitious of those projects debuts on Oct. 5, when Brevard Music Center formally opens its new Parker Concert Hall for its inaugural season.
The new $6 million facility, designed to seat 400 patrons in an airy, acoustically-superior space, was designed, built, and furnished by PLATT, the Brevard-based architecture, construction, and interior design firm that Al founded in 1982.
Parker Concert Hall is the first year-round performance venue in Brevard Music Center's history and the first multi-purpose event space built on the campus since Whittington-Pfohl Aud-itorium opened in 1964. Lead sponsors for the Parker Concert Hall are Drs. Tom and Joanne Parker.
"This performance hall is a perfect melding of our belief in active philanthropy with Brevard Music Center's mission," said Tom Parker. "The joy of seeing aspiring musicians, in the company of other like-minded youth, became the inspiration that guided us."
"We could not envision undertaking a project of this significance without PLATT," said Mark Weinstein, president and CEO of Brevard Music Center. "Al Platt and Parker Platt and their team brought all of their creativity, passion and resourcefulness to bear on both the design and construction of this project, which is one of the most important in our institution's history."
Credit for the design of Parker Concert Hall falls to Al and his son, Parker, president of PLATT, who joined the firm in 1994. The elder Platt described their shared design process simply as a "broad and evolving conversation."
That conversation also included other vital contributors, including members of the Brevard Music Center staff and board.
"They have a great group of people at Brevard Music Center, and we really connected on this project," said Parker, who led the PLATT team.
The hall's most distinctive touch might very well be its location: extending out over Lake Milner, near the entrance to the Brevard Music Center campus.
"We could have built Parker Concert Hall anywhere on the campus and it would have been an important addition," said Tom Parker. "But by putting it on the lake, where it's the first structure people see, we've been able to create a new icon for the campus. When it's open and it's full of people and the light is reflecting off the water, it's going to be breathtaking. It's like a visual invitation to experience this incredible institution."
The prominent location allowed PLATT to add a boardwalk promenade on the lake-facing side of the building that is as inviting as it is practical: it serves as a bridge linking the campus' living, dining and rehearsal spaces with Whittington-Pfohl Aud-itorium.
"It doesn't just serve as a visual focal point," said Parker of the promenade, "It's a way of unifying the whole campus. The steady flow of students and teachers will give the space a constant vibrancy and dynamism."
PLATT collaborated with two other firms in the design and execution of the concert hall.
Theatre Consultants Collaborative (TCC), which specializes in performing arts facilities, worked with PLATT on several key aspects of the design.
TCC and PLATT developed an unobtrusive pipe grid to support the majority of the lighting fixtures within a dramatic overhead truss constructed with massive beams of Douglas fir.
They also worked closely together on the use of an innovative telescopic seating system that allows the venue to be transformed from a performance space to a multi-purpose event center in a matter of minutes, multiplying the ways in which the concert hall can be utilized.
"Parker Concert Hall is a state-of-the-art performance space that will serve the needs of our students and our patrons for decades to come," said Weinstein. "But we also feel that it is an important asset for Brevard and Transylvania County. It will serve as an inspiring venue for individuals and organizations to host all kinds of social and community events."
Jason Prichard, senior design consultant for TCC, worked closely with the PLATT design and building team throughout the project, including Rhett Pace, construction project manager at PLATT.
"When the architect is also the builder, it can really make the difference in how well a project comes together," said Prichard. "PLATT does beautiful work and I can't say enough good things about them."
Akustiks, the industry leader in acoustical consulting, was another key contributor.
The firm worked closely with the PLATT team to insure the concert hall excels at its main purpose: to provide a superior listening experience for both the audience and the artist.
Akustiks' Paul Scar-brough, an acoustical design professional with over 30 years experience, collaborated with PLATT from the beginning stages of the project.
"Robust timber framing is a hallmark of the PLATT practice," said Scarbrough, "and these are materials we don't often get to work with, so it was very satisfying for us."
Scarbrough believes that the design of superior performance spaces requires an exceptionally high level of coordination.
"We often talk about it as a three-legged stool: the architect, the theatre consultants and the acoustic consultants," said Scarbrough. "What I really enjoyed about working with PLATT is that they are great listeners. They listened very carefully not just to us but also to the client. One of the most important qualities in an architect is their willingness to listen and respond, so that the design reflects and integrates everyone's needs and expectations."
Akustiks sees per-formance spaces as "instruments" in their own right that can be tuned to optimize sound quality. The installation of one of the key acoustic elements provides a perfect example of how a design feature can serve two purposes.
Scarbrough and his team recommended the installation of tall, vertical strips of hard maple on the sidewalls of the performance space. The firm did not dictate their placement – just the specific volume of wood needed to diffuse and absorb sound in a particular way.
What some would consider a limitation on the interior design, PLATT saw as an opportunity. The firm's construction team installed the maple strips in a pattern that accurately mimics the contours of the surrounding mountains.
"Whether inside listening to a performance or strolling on the promenade during an intermission, the audience will always feel at home," said Parker.
Home is what Brevard Music Center has long felt like to the Platt family. In 2018, as a 40th anniversary gift to Brevard Music Center, PLATT renovated the Composer's Cottage that Al designed and built all those many years ago with his then-partner Joe Sam Queen, who went on to become a member of the North Carolina House of Representatives.
The family's connection to Brevard Music Center was further reinforced this past July when Al's other son, musician Woody Platt of the Steep Canyon Rangers, took center stage at Whittington-Pfohl Auditorium with his wife and fellow artist, Shannon Whitworth.
"My dad and I have the distinction of designing a concert hall on the same campus that my brother and sister-in-law have performed," said Parker. "I'm not sure it gets much better than that."
To learn more, visit http://www.platt.us or @platt.us on Instagram.
To purchase tickets to the inaugural season of Parker Concert Hall, visit http://www.brevardmusic.org.