Design hits a high note
Cindy Coleman -- Interior Design, 10/1/2003 12:00:00 AM
It helps to know your neighbor. Especially if you're composer Bryan Rheude, whose Comma Music and Sound Design produces music for Nike, Gatorade, and Reebok commercials. When Rheude needed an acoustically superior recording booth, he simply drew up some sketches, then walked down the hall to John Ronan Architect, located in the same renovated Chicago warehouse.
For principal John Ronan, who wasn't well versed in recording studios, the project presented a challenge, catapulting him beyond the three dimensions of form into the less familiar fourth dimension of sound. "It was a real ear-opening experience," he says. After researching standard, prefabricated sound booths, he came up with a 300-square-foot freestanding version, positioned slightly askew to divide the 2,400-square-foot loft into three zones. The booth is a trapezoid, not a cube, to avoid standing waves: echoes that occur in volumes with right angles.
Since Rheude works at a mixing board outside the booth, double-glazed laminated walls for front and back allow him to have eye contact with musicians during sessions. (Clients sitting in can also observe and participate.) Sheets of sound-absorbing Homasote clad the sidewalls and ceiling, constructed of galvanized-steel studs, acoustical insulation, aluminum strips, and two layers of drywall. To reduce noise and vibration further, air-handling and exhaust functions are ducted in.
For the booth's color palette, Ronan limited himself to three choices. Sidewalls, ceiling, and nylon carpet are white. Black shows up in the spiky forms of polyurethane-foam acoustic panels, Velcro-backed for instant repositioning. Glass pendant fixtures, molded-fiberglass chairs by Charles and Ray Eames, and the booth's exterior paint stand out in red, as does the loft's entry door.
One of Ronan's most important contributions is invisible: It's the 1-inch neoprene cubes that separate the bottom of the booth from the existing maple floor, isolating the vibrations common in loft buildings. Now that's neighborly.