Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
Experimental Media & Performing Arts Center
Troy, NY


Davis Brody Bond collaborated with Nicholas Grimshaw & Partners on the new Experimental Media & Performing Arts Center (EMPAC) at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. An important resource to the Institute, this new structure was designed to explore new technological innovations in the performing arts and to provide the highest quality of acoustic and visual facilities.

Precisely tailored to its complex program, EMPAC houses a 1,200-seat concert hall, a 400-seat theatre with a full fly tower, two adaptive environment studios — Studio 1 and Studio 2, an audio and video production suite, artists-in-residence studios, a campus radio station and a dance studio. As the nation’s oldest technological university with one of the first undergraduate programs in Electronic Media and Arts in the United States, RPI has validated its position at the forefront of experimental media with the $200 million facility.

The difficulties presented by the site’s steep hillside were turned into architectural advantages by the design team, which located the entrance at the highest elevation. From the entrance, patrons descend through seven discrete levels of the central atrium, which serves as the social hub of the building. The concert hall is wrapped inside a “hull” of curved cedar planks, which hovers inside a glass exterior enclosure. The hull provides a practical and elegant enclosure for the extensive mechanical duct spaces and circulation corridors around the concert hall and serves as a structural component which supports the roof.

EMPAC stands as one of the most advanced performing arts venues in the nation. It provides students with opportunities to express their creative interests and engages both the campus and the surrounding community with the electronic and performing arts.