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Sander Architects recently completed the Idyllwild Arts Concert Hall in the mountains of Idyllwild, California. The acoustics, designed by ARUP / Antonio Acoustics are world-class and the building came in on budget, $4.3MM hard cost.  This is far under the cost of comparable projects, a counter-trend in an age where building costs have escalated for cultural heritage/arts and civic projects.  For example, many museum buildings have become more expensive than the art in them: with this project we intended to demonstrate that design skills combined with technology can obliterate the high cost trend.
The project began when Sander Architects won an invited competition to design the Idyllwild Performing Arts Center (IPAC), a new performing arts center for Idyllwild Arts Academy.  The school is one of the country's top three High Schools for the arts.  The student body is represented by dozens of countries, including much of the Pacific Rim, South America and Europe. Sander Architects' site strategy was to place the Performing Arts Center to one side of an open lot, thereby creating a new green quad at the heart of campus.  This quad also aligns with Lily Rock, the dominant geological feature in the Idyllwild Valley.  

IPAC's structural system is composed of light-gauge metal building components and is an excellent example of Sander Architects' Hybrid Construction concept.  All steel elements were manufactured off-site by existing steel building manufacturers using computer-controlled processes. The elements were made from 80% recycled steel, and were shipped to the site for easy bolt-together erection.   Sander Architects has had success with this system in residential applications under the name Hybrid House; part prefab, all custom (TM).  The extraordinary cost savings we have found with residences were even greater in IPAC, since the light-gauge steel building typically spans dozens or hundreds of feet, and is perfectly suited for this application.

The Concert Hall is sheathed in rusted cor-ten panels. The panels have an irregular topography derived from an abstracted musical phrase by composer Richard James, also known as Aphex Twin. This skin alludes to the music within the Hall and to the landscape of folded rock and granite that makes up the surrounding mountains.


The entrance lobby to the hall has soaring ceilings from which hang dozens of white globe lights. They create a celestial effect and have a subtle dance as they move in cross breezes created when the sliding glass doors open the front corner of the space.

The interior of the hall gets its nickname “Hall of Trees” from the 4” x 8” ribs that arch up the sides and across the ceiling. They are slightly offset to evoke a forest of trees and to scatter the sound and create cleaner acoustics for the performers.

The hall has its official opening in the Fall of 2016.


The existing concert hall will become part of complex that also includes a theater with a flytower and set-building shops backstage, as well as a two-story entrance / piano bar and ticket booth.

One of the most dramatic features will be a walkable roof planted with drought-tolerant greenery and will be composed of a curved/sloped roof plane, which will be accessible to pedestrians from two different sides of the building where it will meet the adjacent grade. Movies will be projected on a side of the theater flytower, creating a large area for outdoor movie viewing.

This is one of our Hybrid Construction projects. Read more about Hybrid Construction 

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