The Phyllis Wattis Theater in the SFMOMA
After a three-year expansion, the new San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) opens on May 14 with nearly triple the gallery space, 45,000 square feet of public access areas, and a world-class collection of modern and contemporary art on view. Committed to an extraordinary visitor experience on every level, SFMOMA partnered with Meyer Sound to provide sound solutions throughout the transformed museum.
A highlight of the collaboration is the redesigned Phyllis Wattis Theater, located at the heart of the museum where the original Mario Botta-designed building seamlessly integrates with the Snøhetta-designed, 10-story addition. According to San Francisco-based EHDD, the architects tasked with the theatre renovation, a Meyer Sound Constellation acoustic system was an excellent solution to complex architectural and acoustic challenges.
Together with Meyer Sound cinema and reinforcement systems, Constellation supports a vast range of public events imagined for the Wattis Theater. In line with the museum’s goal of creating a versatile space, the 275-seat theatre will host events ranging from film series, live music, and dance performances to educational lectures and panel discussions.
“We consulted with the designers and acousticians at Meyer Sound, who were able to create a Constellation system perfect for the space,” said Duncan Ballash, principal and president of EHDD. “Not only did Constellation ensure great acoustic results, but it gave the EHDD team the architectural freedom to design the room with a sleek and modern look, without sacrificing acoustical integrity. Ultimately, Constellation ended up inspiring and working integrally with the architectural design of the Wattis.”
Constellation gives the theatre the sonic flexibility to provide optimal acoustics for any event by adjusting the room’s reverberation time and strength from a consumer tablet. A D-Mitri digital audio platform provides the backbone for Constellation in the Wattis Theater, and hosts the patented VRAS acoustical algorithm. This works in conjunction with 24 distributed microphones and 93 small, self-powered loudspeakers discreetly mounted on walls and ceiling.
The art museum had to look no further than across the Bay for an innovative, global leader in sound. “As an institution, we pride ourselves on working with the very best—from artists to architects, curators to chefs,” said Neal Benezra, Helen and Charles Schwab director of SFMOMA. “We’re willing to look globally for the finest, but we were so pleased to find world-class sound solutions just across the Bay at Meyer Sound. This is a collaboration that can grow along with the museum into the future.”
With the fully equipped Wattis Theater in place, SFMOMA has primed itself to be a major film venue in the Bay Area by partnering with the San Francisco Film Society to present the film series Modern Cinema, where a Meyer Sound cinema system will offer patrons a unique cinematic experience.
“Our cinema system is critical in offering an immersive experience to everyone, no matter where in the house they’re sitting,” said Benezra. “This is something we’ve never been able to offer to the full extent.”
Multiple conference and meeting rooms throughout the new building also feature Meyer Sound solutions to provide intelligibility and sonic flexibility for a wide range of needs.
Three CAL column array loudspeakers with advanced beam-steering technology provide sound for various pop-up events in the Haas Jr. atrium.
An unusual, double-height event and performance space, the Gina and Stuart Peterson White Box will implement a UPJunior VariO loudspeaker system for anything from performance to site specific commissions.
UPJunior-XP VariO, UP-4XP, and Stella-8C installation loudspeakers combined with MM-10XP subwoofers provide optimum sound for K-12 programming in the Koret Education Center. The 4,800-square-foot space, featuring a resource library and two classrooms, will serve 55,000 K-12 school children and a new series of adult education classes annually.
The Phyllis Wattis Theater was designed by EHDD in conjunction with the San Francisco-based consulting firm Auerbach Pollock Friedlander. All Meyer Sound systems in SFMOMA were provided and installed by integrator BBI Engineering of San Francisco. Acoustical engineering firm Arup of San Francisco consulted on the project.