The Conrad Prebys Performing Arts Center

Opening Year 2019
Location La Jolla, California, USA
Capacity 513 seats
Architect Epstein Joslin Architects
Joseph Wong Design Associates
Theater Consultant Theatre Consultants Collaborative
Owner/User La Jolla Music Society
Construction Cost USD 82M

The Conrad is composed of two main performance spaces: the 513-seat Baker-Baum Concert Hall and the JAI, a cabaret-style space, which accommodates up to 128 people in various flexible configurations. The Village of La Jolla has a height limit of 9.1m which must be respected for all new buildings, including The Conrad. Even though this resulted in a slightly reduced ceiling height (8.3m), an excellent space for chamber music was created by exploring other options together with the architects, principally giving as much volume as possible to the concert hall. Thus the acoustic volume of the hall is expanded horizontally rather than vertically, giving as much space as possible on the site to the concert hall.

The basic shape of the hall is a rectangular prism, with a rounded balcony at the far end of the hall. The ceiling slopes gently upwards from the stage to the balcony, and along the cross-section of the hall, the ceiling is one large convex shape. The audience is laid out in a compact yet comfortable arrangement at the center of the hall, shape of which resembles very strongly a horse-shoe.

The audience and stage are enclosed by an acoustically transparent wooden “nest.” The main outer volume of the hall is formed by rough plaster on heavy concrete blocks, and is washed by blue lights. This additional volume, shown in the light grey in the accompanying plan, helps expand the space available for the necessary early reflections, and the large volume necessary for richness, or warmth. Behind the wooden nest walls, surrounding the stage on three sides, are the soffits which send supporting reflections directly back to the performers.

Large areas of sound absorbing curtains are suspended on rails in this interstitial volume, allowing the hall to be prepared for amplified performances without making any visual changes to the hall. The front of the stage can take several different configurations for increased flexibility, and the upstage wall can slide away in order to present cinematic events on a large screen, or a scrim and cyclorama can be hung.

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