Comfort and safety

How to put acoustic excellence centre stage in theatres

By Knauf Insulation
May 06, 2022

Knauf Insulation’s acoustic expert discusses the fine art of refining theatre soundscapes following the opening of a striking new cultural centre in the Netherlands.

The Amare building in the heart of The Hague is a showcase for some of the most outstanding artistic talent in the Netherlands and, having achieved BREEAM Excellence certification, it is also a celebration of sustainable building.

It is also an outstanding tribute to the art of acoustic engineering.

The building is owned by the Municipality of The Hague and was designed as a multi-purpose replacement for the Dr Anton Philipszaal and Lucent Danstheater venues on the Spui and the Royal Conservatoire.

The cultural hub today houses a 1,300-seater theatre, a concert hall for 1,500, an ensemble hall for 600, a 200-seat rehearsal space, as well as a range of classrooms and studios.

 

Sublime acoustics

Acoustic Isolation On Stage Concert Hall The Hague Netherland Amare Cultural Complex

Naturally, as a home to world class artistic excellence, it was essential that sublime acoustics were put centre stage from the beginning with every detail orchestrated using Knauf and Knauf Insulation solutions.

The challenges were enormous. Many of the walls were very thick with some up to 12 metres high, many non-load-bearing partition walls had to be easily moveable, not a single ceiling surface was completely straight, and every acoustic element had to be capable of decoupling without causing sound leakage. In addition, in line with Amare’s circular economy ambitions, materials had to be recyclable or reusable.

Building Information Modelling was used extensively, more than 300 acoustic measurements were taken for each wall and giant mock-up spaces took up two floors to test different solutions. Furthermore, prefabricated ceiling elements had to be created offsite and assembled at the arts venue where 20,000 m2 of Knauf panels were installed.

 

Expertise unites for landmark project

 

Meanwhile, Knauf Insulation and Knauf solutions were customised for walls according to specific acoustic requirements featuring 100,000 m2 of Acoustifit Mineral Wool which ranged in thickness from 250mm to 600mm as well as 270,000 m2 of lightweight Knauf Diamond Board.

This landmark project brought together expertise from Knauf Insulation, the Knauf Group, acoustic designers LBP|Sight, architects NOAHH Network Oriented Architecture, Architects & Urbanists as well as the building consortium Cadanz.

Maro Puljizević, Knauf Insulation’s Acoustics Project Manager at the company’s Core Research and Development Department, says the Amare is not only a centre of artistic excellence it is also a celebration of acoustic achievement.

“In a theatre space every member of the audience should be able to hear a performance clearly and that is why creating the best acoustic environment is an art in itself shaping the light and shade of sound by combining different thickness of Mineral Wool with the most effective board and acoustic spaces,” he says. “If you don’t add enough insulation the space becomes echoic if you put in too much the space is deadened.”

Maro Puljizević Knauf Insulation Acoustic Project Manager R&D

Unique acoustic challenges

 

There is the geometry of space, carpets, seating and finding the right balance and optimisation for each solution. Every surface contributes to acoustic performance — for example balcony designs are not just aesthetically pleasing they also play a role in dispersing sound — so it is essential to combine solutions using different thicknesses of Mineral Wool, different size cavities and different types of panels.

Acoustic Challenges Seat Arrangement Auditorium Atlas Theatre Netherlands

Theatres offer hundreds of unique acoustic challenges, says Maro. For example, the intended number of people in the audience will define the volume, the volume will define how seats are arranged. The stage inevitably plays a role impacted by motorised elements, curtains, scenery or 360-degree spaces needing specific requirements, orchestra members need to communicate amongst themselves as well as be heard by audiences and so on…

Acoustic consultants are constantly balancing and recalibrating levels of sound absorption, reflection and diffusion to refine a near perfect experience. Often performances are recorded for posterity so there is no space to accommodate rogue noises from, for instance, an external waterpipe or air-conditioning unit.

“As we have seen at Amare, the challenges of a theatre are extraordinary and often it can take years to fine tune,” says Maro. “That is why it is better to use a system provider who can be involved at every stage of the process, from designing the acoustic systems and offering the technical support in line with the architects and artistic team to providing and installing the solutions.”

 

Knauf Insulation has sound solutions to improve acoustic performance in every type of theatre and all the expertise you need to make an informed choice.

Our DRS Sound Supreme Board has been specially developed for the insulation core of wooden doors and is popular with venues as well as acoustically demanding hotels.

Our Rock Mineral Wool is often used as the core of sandwich panels in partition walls and roof elements due to its excellent sound insulation properties.

Our Glass Mineral Wool is lightweight, easily installed and provides outstanding thermal insulation as well as exceptional acoustic performance.

Our Heraklith Wood Wool sound insulation is attractive, easy to install and made from sustainable natural materials. It is particularly popular with theatres and other venues because the uneven wood surface diffuses sound equally rather than bouncing sound back like a mirror reflection. This type of surface avoids the classic acoustic problem of just exposing limited audience members to sound.

Our SUPAFIL® Blowing Wool is ideal for new buildings, renovation and for prefabricated buildings with a range of applications for cavity walls.