On May 11, Stanford University broke ground on a new 844-seat performing arts space that will be a key element of an emerging campus arts complex presently anchored by the Cantor Center for Visual Arts.
Designed by New York’s Polshek Partnership, the $110-million Bing Concert Hall will open in 2012 or 2013, supplanting the midcentury, functionally problematic 714-seat Dinkelspeil Auditorium as the main venue for Stanford’s Lively Arts series. It is a return to campus for Polshek, who in 1998 also oversaw the renovation and expansion for the Cantor.
Prospects for sonic excellence are good, thanks to the involvement of Nagata Associates’ Yasuhisa Toyota, the acoustician for Frank Gehry’s Walt Disney Concert Hall. Toyota worked with Polshek's Richard Olcott, who led the project's design. Elements of the auditorium interior bear a resemblance to Disney (albeit at a much smaller scale), such as the fragmented and tiered “vineyard” seating with beech wood–clad parapets, and the Alaskan yellow cedar stage floor.
Toyota’s design is meant to accommodate classic unamplified instruments as well as electronically assisted and pure electronic sound. The exterior, in a bow to campus context, will be a large oval drum clad in stucco, then fronted and lightened by a large glass lobby.
Given its immense financial and intellectual resources, Stanford, which discontinued its architecture program in the 1970s, has been a surprisingly unfruitful environment for architectural excellence. Its evolving arts district should help reverse that trend.