raSmith Receives State and National Structural Engineering Awards for UW-Madison School of Music

June 1, 2020


Hamel Music Center, a world-class facility, substantially expands UW–Madison’s music program

UW Madison Hamel Music Center Recital HallraSmith has received state and national structural engineering excellence awards from the American Council of Engineering Companies (ACEC). Both awards honor the University of Wisconsin–Madison’s Hamel Music Center.

The ACEC Wisconsin Chapter awarded raSmith a Best of State Engineering Excellence award for the UW–Madison project. raSmith was then invited to submit the project for recognition by the national ACEC organization. The Hamel Music Center was recognized again, this time with a national Honor Award for Engineering Excellence.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, winning projects will be honored at award ceremonies to be held later this year.

Music Center’s Need for Superior Sound Isolation
UW Madison Hamel Music Center Rehearsal Hall ExteriorAcoustics and sound isolation in the University’s new Hamel Music Center needed to be top tier for exceptional performances unlike any other. Space for rehearsing was also required. raSmith’s structural engineers faced the challenges of isolating sound stemming from busy vehicular and pedestrian traffic on University Avenue, doors opening and closing, lobby chatter, loud HVAC systems, and music played in adjacent halls. The building’s concert, recital and rehearsal halls and the lobby needed to be isolated from one another, like a vault for acoustics.

The overall structural design that worked perfectly when addressing acoustical requirements was the approach of placing three separate buildings within one large overall building. The recital and rehearsal halls were self-supporting and isolated from the main lobby to the overall building and required support space. The walls surrounding the recital and rehearsal halls were completed with double-wall construction. A standard nut, washer and bolt assembly, with the additions of a neoprene washer, neoprene bushing and neoprene bearing pad, were used as part of an acoustical isolation joint. Hundreds of these joints were used to isolate the framing outside of the concert hall. The neoprene addition to the joint served as an insulating piece that absorbs any potential vibrations from adjacent walls.

UW Madison Hamel Music Center Concert Hall Practice2

Acoustical coffers, a series of circles along the concert hall’s walls and ceiling, are intentionally different sizes and located in specific locations.

The concert hall also uses an acoustical coffer system, a series of strategically sized and strategically placed circles (some concave or some partially or fully hollow) that line its walls. While these sizable circles provide sound treatment, absorbing and reflecting it, the system fits in beautifully with the rest of the hall’s aesthetics. Reverberation chambers on both sides of the stage, where sound actually passes through, are hidden from sight. Amazingly large, almost 15 public transportation buses could fit within each of the hall’s chambers.

Fulfilling a Campus and Community Necessity
The Hamel Music Center fulfills the school’s need for modern performance and learning spaces. In addition, the recital hall now doubles its predecessor’s stage, allowing for 350 performances each year. Using the building as a gateway to connect the campus and its surrounding community, a new arts corridor is created. Also of note is that the project utilized nearly all local (to Wisconsin) products and services to build the impressive structure.