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Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center
110 8th Street,
Troy, New York
Built: 2008
Architect: Grimshaw Architects
Architect of Record: Davis Brody Bond
Structural Engineer: Buro Happold
Acoustician: Kirkegaard Associates
Theater Consultant: Fisher Dachs Associates
Construction Manager: Turner Construction Company

The Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center (EMPAC)

Floor plan of EMPAC


This building was constructed for the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Within are most importantly Studio 1, Studio 2, and the concert hall which is a spherical red cedar structure supported with steel beams. Narrow bridges connect the hall to the three story atrium surrounding it. In total, everything is enclosed by a LEED silver certified set of glazed glass curtain walls (2).
It “brings together the huge volumes of the 1200 seat concert hall and 400 seat theater and partly sinking them into the hill ” (1). This is primarily due to the demands of the 45 degree slope in the topography near the Hudson River (2).

Exterior view of concert hall

Interior view of concert hall

The foundation uses a system of rock anchors for structural integrity due to the soft clay-like earth beneath (3). As well, “to help eliminate structure-borne vibrations, one of the two high tech studios, Studio 1, floats atop a huge grid of steel springs” (3).

Studio 1: This is nick named the “Darth Vader Space.” It is designed for state of the art virtual electronic media (3).


Some basic measurements from the EMPAC website (4):

  • 5 million cubic feet: EMPAC’s volume (imagine a cube that is as high, wide and deep as the length of a football field.)
  • 640,000: feet of fiber optic and copper cable for digital transmission throughout the building
  • 221,200: Square footage of the entire building
  • 100,000: cubic yards of earth excavated for EMPAC’s foundation
  • 23,000: visitors to EMPAC during our Opening Festival
  • 2,600: tons of steel used in construction
  • 2,500: audience members for EMPAC 360 Event
  • 2,164: custom designed acoustic panels (1,280 diffusive, 884 absorptive);
  • 1,279: sine wave light dimmers
  • 1,200: number of seats in the concert hall
  • 400: number of seats in the theater
  • 215: ¾” thick rock anchors, some 210 feet long, sunk into hillside
  • 162 x 196: channels of HD video matrix
  • ¼ acre: of video projection screens


Case study by: Christina Phensy
ARE 320K, Fall 2010

sources (UT Library):
(1) “Grimshaw: performing arts centre,” Architectural Review, April 2008, v.223, n.1334, p.70-71

(3) “Behind the screens: the new performing arts center for Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute straddles virtual and physical spaces” Oculus, Spring 2009, v.71, n.1, p.29-31

Web Sources:



Written by Christina Phensy

September 10, 2010 at 11:16 pm

Posted in Uncategorized