By Jack Stubbs
At a time when the city of Seattle is changing so rapidly and experimental design practices are continually being brought to the table, project teams are looking to bring new experiences to the Seattle’s skyline and to the city’s urban core.
That is certainly the case with Octave 9: Raisbeck Music Center, a collaboration led by the Seattle Symphony and LMN Architects, which will serve as a experimental music education and performance space in the heart of downtown Seattle. Scheduled to open in first quarter 2019, the 2,500 square foot venue will serve as an expansion of the Seattle Symphony’s Benaroya Hall located at 200 University Street.
Since its inception, Octave 9 was seen as a highly-flexible education and performance space, and will look to provide a multi-sensory musical experience for the Symphony’s various music and education programs, according to Mark Reddington, partner at LMN Architects. “Since Benaroya Hall opened, this space has been used as their Learning Center and had exhibits for a variety of different uses and events…at a conceptual level, this space will serve many of those same kinds of services,” he said.
The project team for Octave 9 also includes Meyer Constellation Sound (electro-acoustics), Belle & Wissell, Co. (immersive technology), Jaffe Holden (acoustical/audio-visual consultant), Schuler Shook (theater planning and lighting design), Magnusson Klemencic Associates (structural engineering), Holaday-Parks, Inc. (mechanical engineering design-build), Sequoyah Electric LLC (electrical engineering design-build) and JTM Construction (general contractor).
The $6.7 million capital project, on which construction was begun in June 2018, is funded through a combination of public and private funds spearheaded by a $2 million match from local philanthropists James and Sherry Raisbeck. The launch of Octave 9 Coincides with the 20th Anniversary of Benaroya Hall, which has been the Symphony’s home since 1998, and the in-the-works development will add a third venue to Benaroya Hall and reimagines the former Soundbridge Seattle Symphony Music Discovery Center.
One of the main overarching features of the project is that it aims to create an immersive experience through the intersection of technology and design. The interior of the space will look to create a unique acoustical experience through the use of Meyer Sound’s Constellation Acoustic System, which the design team hopes will transform the musical and acoustical possibilities within, according to Reddington. “[The project] has been designed as a flexible, immersive environment in which there is a sound system designed to allow the acoustic quality of the space to be manipulated so that it can sound like a room anywhere in the world, both in terms of the acoustics as well as what you broadcast through the system,” he said.
In broader terms, the hope is that the interior programming and features of Octave 9 will create an immersive experience for visitors. All of the surfaces and materials were considered for their specific acoustic qualities, and various lighting and projection and performance equipment are all integrated into a custom-designed acoustically-absorptive ceiling. The visuals in the building are achieved through a series of 13 mobile projection panels that can be customized to wrap around the space.
Through these features, the design team hopes that users’ ability to manipulate and customize the various features will allow the venue to be utilized by a wider audience, according to Scott Crawford, principal at LMN. “Looking at the programming of the interior of the space that has happened up until now, there has been a big effort to bring in a broader audience to the Symphony…and this project has the potential of increasing that even further,” he said. The space can operate for a wide variety of uses including as a classroom/meeting room, musical performance space, or as an experimental space for local artists and composers.
More broadly, Octave 9 will allow the Seattle Symphony to expand its education and musical programs throughout the local community across a wide range of demographics, according to Laura Reynolds, vice president of education and community engagement at Seattle Symphony.
“From young families to local artists to nonprofit partners to schools and young composers, the Seattle Symphony envisions the project as a venue that brings people together and fosters creativity through technology,” Reynolds said. “The technology embedded in the venue enables us to be adaptive and curate environments for any event, ultimately creating ideal shared experiences for the audience.” The Symphony is currently looking at ways to share the share audiences online through long-distance learning with the live-streaming and recording capabilities.
Since the inception of the project, LMN Architects—who are contracted to fabricate the design of the building’s ceiling—was tasked with creating a technology-oriented forward-looking building for the future. “From the very beginning, the Symphony gave us the charge that they wanted to be the symphony of the future, which is a fairly open-ended idea…but what’s important there is that in the discussions of developing this space, there was the idea of finding out what it means to be a Symphony of the future,” Reddington said. “There is a richness to be able to build a space that has a set of new technologies that the Symphony can try to find their own response to.”
Ultimately, the overarching objective with Octave 9, especially given the development’s prominent location in the city’s downtown core, was to capitalize on the wave of technological innovation and new developments occurring throughout Seattle, according to Reddington. “Union Street is one of the major east-west connections linking the new Waterfront to the downtown urban core. When the new Waterfront comes, the whole sense of the public space in the heart of the city and people’s psychological understanding of our civic space will shift,” he said. “Seattle is the perfect city to do this type of project where there’s a lot of fairly sophisticated technology embedded, and there’s a direct connection to what’s going on technology-wise in our city…our city is developing rapidly and there’s a lot of new projects being built. As the city’s urban core becomes denser with different people and users, it’s important that it also offers diverse experiences,” he said.