A crowd blurred in motion under rigging suspended from the ceiling of a black box theater.


Meeting the Senses

To Human Scale

EMPAC is designed and built to the human scale. It accommodates technology, but it is not built to the scale of technology, even thought it is filled with perhaps more technology than any other performing arts center. And even though it has venues like no other research center.

Designing and building for technology is easy; designing and building to the human scale is very complicated. It would seem that it is easy to build for us humans, since that is what buildings were meant for in the first place. But politics, economics, and technology have created such intertwined sets of criteria for buildings that basic human requirements are often not accommodated. We accept the creation of buildings without daylight, without high-quality artificial light, a pleasant level of humidity, or a quietness that allows our ears to rest and to hear the soft sounds our ears can perceive.

With EMPAC, a center for experimental media and performing arts has been designed and built to the scale that allows the expression and experience with our bodies and minds, through our senses. It is defined by the physical requirement of our senses and designed to our human scale. 

2010 Article: Scale, Senses, and the Creation of Meaning 

Main Image: EMPAC's Studio 1. Photo: Paul Riviera.

The Concert Hall was designed to be light and uplifting—the sails of the fabric ceiling, maple wood and white wall panels, the cast stone wall elements with a slight simmer, and the vertical movement of the upstage wall—respecting the individual while at once supporting a communal experience by performers and audience being in one space without a stage house or boxes.

The only space with dark surfaces is the large Studio 1—Goodman. The black walls soar and are broken up through the shapes of the acoustic panels so that one can have visions or dreams that easily glide beyond the space and its walls.

Smaller than Studio 1—Goodman, the smaller Studio 2, with its white acoustic panels and hardwood floor, seems to ask us to make sounds or dance or to take the atmosphere in and listen.

The Theater includes intimate audience seating, like a backyard, where people sit in the yard and others lean out of the windows of the upper floors. The stage is only a foot higher than the first row of audience seating creating a continuum between spectators and spectacle. Yet the stage is very large, almost as large as the auditorium, allowing space and time to expand during performances.

Evelyn's Café is a fulcrum of activity, the living room of the building and campus. Its an intimate space, wedged under the hull, bridges and lobby, yet connected laterally to the northern landscape.

The lobby spaces are all flooded with daylight, as opposed to the venues, which exclude daylight and outdoor noise as part of their "media" focus.

While the upper lobby receives the campus landscape, the Mezzanine is intimate. It serves as the scene of event receptions with artists, lecturers, performers, and audiences, including students and their parents. Here, everyone is welcome and people linger—to plan what they are going to do and to comment on what they have just seen and heard.

Filled with natural light, Studio Beta is the most accessible venue. The space offers sweeping southern landscape views, traditional white walls and maple floor.