Michael Fowler Centre

Client

Wellington City

Location

Wellington, New Zealand

Completion date

1983

The Michael Fowler Centre opened 1983 and was modelled on the Christchurch Town Hall. Located in Wellington, New Zealand's capital city, it was intended to replace an existing 100 year old rectangular Town Hall. In the event, the much loved old hall was also retained and provides an interesting contrast in acoustical style with the new hall.

Our Brief

The Michael Fowler Centre was at the leading edge of acoustical knowledge when it was designed. It incorporates a number of world firsts in its details. Most striking is the first use of "Quadratic Residue Diffusers" on a large scale on the principal reflectors. Prof Marshall had worked on these with their inventor Prof Manfred Schroeder in Goettingen during a sabbatical in 1977. The room was modelled at 1:10 scale so that any audible effects of the QRDs could be studied. Another first application was the so-called Primitive-root Diffuser on the rear wall, designed to disperse a potential echo.

After the Christchurch Town Hall success, intensive research on the effects of lateral reflections had revealed that image shift could occur with reflections either too early or too energetic and in the Michael Fowler Centre the reflector design was modified to avoid these effects. The result is a striking architectural/acoustical ensemble in which there are no arbitrary elements.

Challenges

For architectural reasons the Michael Fowler Centre was to have a sloped main floor, unlike Christchurch Town Hall where the floor is level and this has implications for the design of balconies and reflector arrays. It also gave rise to the opportunity to obtain reverberant coupling behind the balconies to blocks of seats toward the rear.

Again the on-stage communication has been addressed by an over-stage reflector on hoists. This room was intended for multi-function use in its design and has demonstrated that full scale opera (Die Meistersinger von Nürnburg) and chamber music are equally at home there with the symphonic repertoire. 

”...the sound is clear, the listener’s impression is of a running liveness, and the hall seems intimate, both visually and acoustically.”

Dr Leo Beranek