History, Design + Construction
In March 2001, Rensselaer initiated a competition by inviting four of the world’s leading architects to submit a design. A distinguished jury selected Grimshaw, a London-based firm founded by Sir Nicholas Grimshaw, whose work is characterized by spatial and organizational clarity, flexibility, innovation, and a rigorous approach to detail. Grimshaw’s emphasis on the research and application of new materials and construction techniques is amply demonstrated in EMPAC.
Design and construction of the building required the collaboration of experts and firms in a variety of disciplines including:
Buro Happold (Structural & Service Engineer)
Kirkegaard Associates (Acoustician)
Fisher Dachs Associates (Theatre Consultant)
Turner Construction Company (Construction Manager)
Davis, Brody, Bond LLP as the Architect of Record
Groundbreaking for the project took place on September 17, 2003, and EMPAC opened to the public on October 3, 2008 with a three-week inaugural festival.
EMPAC embodies a number of design and construction innovations. An extraordinary baseline of quiet has been achieved through acoustic separation—literally a space between the walls and floors of each venue—to prevent conduction of noisy vibrations. To further cushion vibrations, parts of the building sit on springs embedded in the foundation. The entire building is secured by 215 cable anchors that reach deep into the hillside’s bedrock, making EMPAC one of the most seismically secure buildings in the region.
EMPAC’s 220,000 square-foot center is a signature work of architecture that brings together four main venues as well as many smaller studios and lab spaces under one roof. All can be used independently and simultaneously, allowing EMPAC to present events, host student gatherings, and dedicate space to research and residencies – all at one time. EMPAC includes many firsts and exceptional attributes in the fields of acoustics, structural integrity, theatrical presentation, and digital media. High-bandwidth computer, audio and video networks create a technical infrastructure unlike any other performing arts centers. And, when linked to Rensselaer’s CCNI supercomputer, EMPAC’s superb venues provide opportunities for research that surpass those of most other media research centers.