Mesa Community College - Performing Arts Center
Architect: Jones Studio, Inc.
General Contractor: Layton Construction Co.
Suppliers: Upstate Masonry Institute
Owner: Maricopa County Community College District
The new Mesa Community College Performing Arts Center (PAC) opened in October, 2014. This 44,000 square foot facility (19,500 new / 24,500 repurposed) has as it’s centerpiece a 450 seat variable acoustic theater, designed to accommodate a broad range of musical performances. The new performance hall is defined by two separate enclosure shells and a steel frame. The exterior shell is a composition of exposed masonry and raked, unpainted cement stucco over metal stud framing. The interior shell consists of an exposed masonry enclosure that defines the primary acoustic volume of the hall. The masonry is an important material for the PAC as the two shells are shaped and detailed expressively to achieve independent goals. The north and east exterior walls of the new performance hall are arranged with a running bond pattern and are sloped and folded to both emphasize the “waterfall” downspout at the northwest corner and point to the vertical marquee sign marking the main entry courtyard. The folded masonry wall slopes away from the sign, lifting it up and emphasizing it’s presence. The slope is 2 degrees off the horizon and was achieved by carefully cutting the stem courses of the masonry at the footing. This “marquee” wall is also folded by virtue of an offset coursing detail that slips each block a maximum of 5/8” off center from the one below. The line of the fold ascends diagonally across the north elevation and has no offset. As the wall splays out in either direction the offset goes from zero to 5/8”, creating the fold. The inspiration for this expressive masonry composition is derived from the opening clarinet glissando of George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue. The image of a spectrogram display plotting frequency against time, with sound pressure as brightness was abstracted into the formal resolution of this wall. The grey 8x8x16 concrete masonry unit changes to a charcoal colored unit at this diagonal and as the two tones blend together, the ascending line culminates with the marquee sign. The interior, acoustic shell is constructed with the most refined in the progression of masonry types. From the very basic grey 8x8x16 that changes to charcoal with the opening notes of Rhapsody on the exterior shell, the interior utilizes the same charcoal coloration, but with a smooth, polished, ground face. This acoustical masonry shell has many jobs to accomplish: sound distribution, interior structure, a durable finish and a comfortable, visually rich interior. The hard and dense nature of a solid grouted masonry provides an excellent surface for the reflection of sound. The side walls of the 450 seat hall are scalloped in plan, a series of convex curves designed to spray sound waves evenly across the audience chamber. Contrasting with the exterior detailing, the interior walls utilize a stack bond arrangement – also with an offset coursing detail of 5/8” from the unit below. This surface variation provided the design team a method to create bumps on the wall surfaces that aid in distributing sound evenly. At the front of the room, closest to the stage, are large bumps. Moving north along the side walls the bumps change from a module of five masonry units wide by five units tall, all the way down to a single 8x8x16 offsetting in and out to create small bumps. This variation in size allows for the smoother surfaces, or large bumps, along the front sidewalls to provide stronger early reflections that improve clarity. The smaller bumps along the rear sidewalls provide more diffuse reflections to enhance sound envelopment.
Date of Project Completion: October 2014
2015 NCMA/ICPI Concrete Masonry Design Award of Excellence
Photography by Bill Timmerman