Buhler Hall is a 470-seat multi-purpose performance space on the campus of the Mennonite Collegiate Institute (MCI), a private boarding school in rural Gretna, Manitoba. Buhler Hall opened in 2005, and is home to MCI’s choral and music programs. The space also stages drama and musical theatre, often performed by Cottonwood Community Drama, a local theatre group. The hall features digital sound, professional lighting, and innovative acoustical design that allows the theatre to excel as a music and choral venue, and also as a stage for theatre productions.
As the hall’s acoustical designer, BKL optimized Buhler Hall’s acoustics primarily for choirs and small ensembles of acoustic instruments. Because the school wanted the flexibility to stage theatre productions in the space, BKL integrated variable design elements that reduce the room’s reverberation times when needed. Lower reverberation times improve speech intelligibility, so audience members don’t miss any important lines during a dramatic performance.
Buhler Hall’s stage includes an array of vertically pivoted periaktoi, each 5 metres high with an absorptive side and a reflective side. These periaktoi make the space extremely versatile, and eliminate the need for draperies. While draperies can provide useful sound absorption for speeches and theatre, this absorption is undesirable for choirs and acoustic ensembles.
After providing its acoustical design recommendations, BKL performed a site visit, measuring reverberation times in the hall and assessing how the space distributes sound energy. During the visit, BKL’s acoustician was treated to an impromptu choral performance. By listening from various seats throughout the hall, he experienced the room’s clarity, and confirmed that the sound was imaging well. The acoustician also spoke to the choir to gauge how the room sounded to performers. The choir members reported an ideal amount of reflection for hearing themselves and their fellow singers.
Buhler Hall is recognized as an exceptional space for acoustic choral and music performances, and has received favourable reviews from the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra and others. At the hall’s opening, Henry Engbrecht, a former choral professor at the University of Manitoba, said that “[Buhler Hall] rivals the best small halls in Western Canada. An expansive stage projects sound with great clarity and rewards the performer richly by creating an intimate audience-performer experience.”
15,600 square feet