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Facelift at Fordham Univ.

Fordham University's history as a venerable independent university in the Jesuit tradition dates back to 1841. It is thus not surprising that when the time came to renovate and upgrade the auditorium of Keating Hall--the centerpiece of the School's Rose Hill campus in the Bronx--sensitivity to historical detail was of utmost importance.

Partnering with Vincent Benic Architects, a firm specializing in historical restoration, Syska Hennessy's lighting design, mechanical and audiovisual engineering teams were able to integrate state-of-the-art technology into a reconstructed interior that looks exactly like the one it replaced--only better.

The major renovations to the systems were replacement of the dilapidated lighting fixtures and out-dated audio visual equipment. The neo-Gothic interior was equipped with a 720pHD -resolution display screen customized to prevent it from covering the faux columns at the front stage. The existing speakers--black boxes that had been mounted against the upper walls--were replaced with partially recessed column speakers that blend with the dark wood of the wainscoting and are designed to increase speech intelligibility.

While air returns were cleverly concealed in the coffered ceiling, the main air supply was placed at the back side of the space. No ventilation ducts or air supply units are visible to the eye. By eliminating the projection booth that housed portable audio-visual equipment, and replacing it with a moveable platform, the team was able to restore a once-blocked stained-glass window and restore the visual balance of the space. A motorized projection lift hides the projector and camera when not in use. Making use of every available inch of space, designers were able to store all the necessary audio-visual equipment below the table surface--including user-friendly touch-screen panels.

The 400-seat auditorium's new system is designed to send audio and video feeds to classrooms around the campus as well as to the public radio station WFUV that is located within the same building. The Syska Hennessy design brief also included 3-D acoustical modelling to predict coverage levels.

The existing lighting quality in the auditorium was poor and the lighting system antiquated. The new lighting design considered visual comfort for the state-of-the-art AV systems, laptop use and note taking. These needs were blended with respecting and enhancing the aesthetic quality of the historic interior.

The pendent fixtures were original to the space and the owner expressed an interest in keeping them in the auditorium. The fixtures were refurbished and retro-fitted with compact fluorescent lamps. Recessed fixtures with energy efficient ceramic metal halide lamps and halogen lamps were blended together. New halogen accent lighting for the stained glass windows and columns added visual layers to the space and brought out the richness of the architecture. A pre-set lighting control system that interfaces with the AV control systems was installed.

Working closely with the architects, the goal was to bring technology into the space and meet the client's acoustical performance requirements while maintaining the historical look and feel of the interior. Completed earlier this year, Keating Hall Auditorium has since hosted numerous lectures and classes, and feedback from the client has been extremely positive.

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Comment:Facelift at Fordham Univ.(INSIDE CONSTRUCTION & DESIGN)
Author:Loh, Val; Hay, Mary Ann
Publication:Real Estate Weekly
Date:Nov 5, 2008
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