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  • Catherine Holliss

Music for the Eyes and Ears


Sander Architects has a project in the office that brings music to our ears—and our eyes: a concert hall. Work on the William M Lowman Concert Hall, for Idyllwild Arts, a boarding arts high school up in the mountains of Idyllwild, California, began over 7 years ago. Watching our design take shape has been rewarding. Watching the reaction of the kids, the first performers to test the hall, has been a joy. Acoustical testing began two weeks ago with an official opening concert to be scheduled soon. Sander Architects concept was to create a “heart of campus” for the school, with an open space alongside the concert hall that directs the view towards Lily Rock, as Tahquitz Peak is commonly known, a local rocky outcrop that hovers above the town of Idyllwild. The concert hall itself is wrapped in rusted steel panels that have been folded according to the rhythms of a piece of music, and which create a building that feels like a rocky outcrop in the landscape. The interior uses slightly offset 4 x 8 wood elements that call to mind tree trunks leaning in a forest. We call it the Hall of Trees. A collaboration with internationally acclaimed acousticians from ARUP engineering will make sure that the sound of the hall interior will literally be music for the ears for professional and student alike. It will be a genuine pleasure to watch how this building impacts the lives of the students, and the community at large, over the years to come. One kid walked in to sneak a peek at the nearly-completed hall. I played him the iPhone video I recorded of Lily playing violin and he exclaimed "I know where I am going to record all my audition tapes from now on!" You can hear Lily play on our Facebook page,

Folded steel panels on the exterior, shaped to echo a phrase of music, resemble a rocky outcrop in the landscape.

Initial acoustic testing by ARUP engineers.

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