The National Sawdust music venue, located in Brooklyn’s Williamsburg neighbourhood, is named after the company that once inhabited the century-old building.
The property was acquired several years ago by a not-for-profit organisation founded to support all types of musicians.
The renovated space provides a “simple but vital resource to musicians and composers of all genres: a home where they can dwell, compose, experiment, rehearse, record and premiere new work,” said Bureau V, which has worked closely with the National Sawdust organisation since it was established.
For the 13,000-square-foot project (1,200 square metres), Bureau V retained the historic brick facade while creating an entirely new interior.
“In order to move forward, we decided to look back,” said the firm. “At its core, the design of National Sawdust is a retooling of the 18th-century chamber hall model as an incubator for new music.”
The firm collaborated with acoustic and theatre specialists from Arup, the global engineering firm, to create the venue’s chamber hall, which is contained within a solid concrete shell that sits on spring isolators.
“This ‘box-in box’ construction allows the entire space to achieve the low background noise levels consistent with the world’s finest recording studios,” said the firm.
The interior walls are clad in panels made of powder-coated aluminum and fabric composite. “This skin system remains visually translucent yet acoustically transparent, enabling sound to travel through it freely,” said the studio.
Bureau V wrote its own software programs to develop the interior membrane. “This elision of design and technology allowed for the aesthetic and formal design to be thoroughly integrated with the critical requirements of the space,” said the firm.
The theatre, which features a wrap-around balcony, can hold up to 170 patrons in row seating, 120 in cabaret-style seating, and up to 350 standing guests. A small platform can be raised up from the floor to create an elevated stage area and is supported by metal struts.
A 10-foot by 10-foot (three metres by three metres) sliding door separates the hall from the lobby and acoustically seals off the space during performances.
The organisation plans to add two bars and a restaurant – also designed by Bureau V – to the building.
The firm played a key role in the establishment of the National Sawdust organisation, previously known as the Original Music Workshop. The firm met the organisation’s founder, Kevin Dilan, in 2008 and worked closely with him to find a site for its new home.
“To be a part of this project from its conception through its completion, and now to be part of its future, has truly been a dream,” said Bureau V co-founder Peter Span, who is a trained opera singer.
The project cost $16 million (£10.3 million), with a grand opening taking place last month. This is Bureau V’s first completed building.
“For Kevin Dilan to have trusted a young and largely untested studio, who had never built a building, with the design of a project like this one is a testament to his vision,” said Span. “I know of no other institution that supports and takes risks on young artists with this level of commitment.”
Based in Brooklyn, Bureau V is a multidisciplinary studio led by Span, Stella Lee and Laura Trevino. Its portfolio includes fashion week installations and a line of men’s clothing.
Other recent adaptive reuse projects in New York include a chocolate shop housed inside a former spice factory and the conversion of a telephone exchange building into a creative services and event venue.
Photography is by Floto+Warner.
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