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The Cleveland Institute of Music (CIM) is one of the world's leading music conservatories. Located in the heart of University Circle in Cleveland, this institution resides among a number of other leading educational, medical, artistic and performance organizations including the Cleveland Orchestra, from which CIM draws many of its faculty. In the fall of 2007, CIM completed a $40 million campus expansion. As part of this development, CIM added the Fred A. Lennon Education Building and the newly expanded Robinson Music Library. One of the greatest additions undertaken for the project, Mixon Hall, is a marvel of technology, acoustics and architectural artistry. Designed by architect Charles T. Young of New York along with acoustician Paul Scarbrough of Akustiks, this 250-seat recital hall is wrapped in specially made glass, lustrous wood accents and architectural concrete. Utilizing new technologies in HVAC, this classic shoebox-fashioned hall is also one of the most quiet performance spaces in the world. With reverb times that can adjust from just more than a second to 1.6 seconds using special drapery, complemented by advanced lighting, audio and video systems, Mixon Hall blends sight and sound into an experience that is truly delightful for musicians and concertgoers alike.

A needed room

As the vision of Mixon Hall was being realized, CIM recognized the necessity of having a recording, production and broadcast studio, utilizing state-of-the-art technology, to match Mixon Hall and its many gifted performers. Thus began the design and development of the Robert and Jean Conrad Control Room, which became the first THX-Certified recording studio in a music conservatory worldwide.

To achieve this endeavor, several challenges needed to be overcome. Long before equipment choices were ever made, the room size and location were predetermined as part of the expansion project's overall design. The interior volume of the space designated to the control room was only about 2,650 cubic feet, located backstage to Mixon Hall and directly adjacent to an elevator. Consequently, multiple concerns existed. Thankfully, the combined efforts of Young and the acousticians of Akustiks and RPG ensured that the room's size and location were dually considered while design specifics were being debated.

CIM Mixon Hall exterior

CIM Mixon Hall exterior

The control room was designed in such a way that it sits on its own concrete slab, segregated from the rest of the structure. A raised floor rests on this concrete slab, insulating it from any acoustic vibrations traveling to and from the control room. Upon this raised floor rest the walls of the control room, which were installed with sway bracing so the interior walls are isolated from the exterior framing and studs. Furthermore, the ceiling is isolated from the walls, and everything hanging from it (lights, acoustic panels, etc.) contains special sound isolators, which reduce vibrations being transmitted from one part of the structure to another. The studio was designed as a room within a room, and each structural component is acoustically dampened from every other, including the HVAC duct work. Similar measures were taken when fabricating the exterior of the room, and it was this kind of careful attention that successfully ensured that the control room would not be hampered by exterior sounds or vibrations (and vice versa).

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