Grand Rapids Art Museum

Classic Fine and Frosted Finishes on Gallery & Lobby Ceilings and Black "Star Lit" Ceiling in Auditorium

Grand Rapids, MI


Architect of Design
wHY Architecture

Architect of Record
Design Plus

Acoustical Consultant
Acoustics By Design

Installer
Ritsema Associates

The Grand Rapids Art Museum (GRAM), finished in 2007, was the first LEED Gold Certified Art Museum in the world. The new museum showcases a building of architectural quality both on the exterior and the interior. The $75 million project redeveloped an entire city block and was named one of Newsweek’s six most important buildings of 2007.

The 125,000 square foot three story building designed by wHY Architecture of Los Angeles, in association with Design Plus of Grand Rapids, utilizes huge poured concrete slabs set at elevations to create large open, high ceiling spaces. The introduction of floor to ceiling windows in the public spaces bathes these areas with natural light. The windows, combined with hard surface flooring, became an acoustical challenge.

The galleries were also designed to introduce natural light by using top lantern skylights over a splayed high pyramid shaped ceiling. This created unruly reverberations; wHY’s vision of clean, crisp spaces needed an acoustical solution.

The answer: wHY Architecture commissioned Acoustical Consultants Acoustics By Design to analyze the spaces and find sound absorbent materials that would not detract from their design intent. Acoustics By Design’s resounding recommendation was to use the BASWA Phon Seamless Acoustical Finish System on the ceiling surfaces of the public lobby area ceilings as well as the gallery ceiling areas.

wHY Architecture’s Kulapat Yantrasast noted, “Although the building is monumental in its civic symbol, it is intimate and warm in experience. It is earth-friendly and art-focused. It aims to make people feel most comfortable, yet triggers them to see and to think.”

Acoustics By Design’s project leader, Kenric VanWyk, PE, noted that the grandeur of the spaces, combined with the architects’ selection of hard finished surfaces and requirement for natural light, would create extremely long reverberation times.

Although the installation of smooth white ceiling surfaces in the public and gallery areas was the bulk of the work, the black concave shaped ceiling over the auditorium seating was especially challenging. With multitudes of mini down lights randomly spaced, this area required special attention to detail. The final effect is a "star lit sky” with superior acoustical properties.

Ritsema Associates, a Certified Installer, provided experienced plastering tradesmen who delivered a high quality finish. This local interior contractor was trained on-site by BASWA Phon’s specialized technicians.

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