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Hugo Lambrecht Music Auditorium
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  City of Tygerberg – Hugo Lambrecht Music Auditorium  

“State of the Art” Music Auditorium with a natural acoustic reverberation time of 2 seconds. The Hugo Lambrecht Music Auditorium was created to fill a cultural need that existed in the performing arts environment of the Western Cape.

The Hugo Lambrechts music school was started in 1986 by principal Leon Hartshorne, and operates out of what was originally a primary school. The school caters for approximately 450 students of all ages from the Western Cape community. All students perform as part of an ensemble and /or orchestra. Regular visitors are invited, including international and local professional artists and performers.

The design brief was calling for an auditorium of exceptional acoustic quality, matching the highest


international requirements, accessible to all sectors of society and being a landmark of note. The following were given as requirements:

• The existing hall had to be demolished and the proposed (larger) hall fitted onto the same site.

• Space for:  Audience - 420 seats;  Choir - 200 members; Orchestra - 70 members

• Various preparation and practice rooms for artists.

• A reverberation time for the auditorium of two seconds comparable to international standards.

• A link to the school, which would use the facility on a daily basis.


Design Challenges & Parameters

• To accommodate the larger hall on the site of the former “intrusive” structure without creating a bigger “intrusion”.
• To accommodate the sheer scale of the building next to the school and to deal with the impact on the surrounding streetscape.
• As the site lies directly below the main flight path to Cape Town International Airport, innovative design solutions were necessary for sound insulation.
• To create an exceptional and pleasing audience environment over the above the acoustic demands.


To achieve this standard of acoustical excellence in the auditorium, the following were prescribed by the acoustic consultant:

• A volume of 15m3 per person
• An asymmetrical hall shape with no surface parallel to each other, preferably a “bowtie” or “coffin” shape.
• Seats were to have minimum absorption and seat covers had to be of the smallest surface area possible. The foam used for padding had to conform to strict acoustic specifications.
• Seamless reflective (non-absorbing) finishes except for a dedicated area only for bass absorption.
• Sound diffusers of random shape (none being identical to one another in order to prevent unwanted tones).


The proposed building was to be positioned on the same building line as the school on Alexander Street and on the street boundary of Picton Street, as far away as possible from the school. A semi-enclosed courtyard is formed between the new building and the school. A glazed main and side foyer spills out into the courtyard where patrons and artists can mingle, weather permitting.
The original section of the existing school building, which has architectural merit, is reflected in the auditorium design through the use of similar roof tiles and a common sandstone plinth. The connection to the existing building is handled in a minimalist way, creating a break between the old and new.
To counter the 15m height of the building, the main mass of the building is stepped down, where possible, to relate to the human scale and streetscape. The sculptured exterior of the building is an honest reflection of the interior. Due to the somewhat articulated nature of the exterior, finishes are restrained with natural earthy colours.
For the auditorium to conform to the stringent acoustic requirements laid down by the specialist consultants, the architects decided to marry both the preferred music auditorium shapes. The “coffin” shape was used for the lower main seating area and stage and the “bow tie” was


superimposed over that to create the upper seating balconies and upper volume. It was therefore possible to arrange seating around the orchestra, as is the contemporary trend, which can serve as choir seating as well.
The auditorium sound quality is enhanced by the use of wood for all interior finishes to floors, walls and ceilings in a seamless streamed beech cladding. Only natural non-amplified sound is used during performances with provision for electronic microphones for recording purposes only. Normal speech is not audible with this specification.
Pyramid shaped diffusers with an offset centre point on identical base sizes, but in three pyramid heights, arranged in a grid pattern from high to low, and by rotating each successive unit at 90º, were successfully employed as a sound diffusing method.
The main foyer waiting area, bar and ticket sales are linked to the side foyer, which opens onto the previously mentioned courtyard. The side and upper foyers can be used for performances as well. The stage and lower seating areas and amenities are accessible to wheel chair users. Glass blocks are used as a less costly way of day lighting the “back of house” areas without the use of expensive sound resisting glazing.


Structural and Construction

Spanning 25m of roof with a 200mm concrete slab, necessary for sound insulation, was a challenge. The unusual shapes of the structure, where no walls are parallel and with many curved elements, led to critical setting-out requirements on site. After completion of the concrete structure, pre-cast roof elements were crane-lifted onto steel roof trusses to create the sloped roof shape necessary, in combination, to lessen aircraft noise and to form a waterproof structure. Internally, curved and flat timber acoustical ceilings, timber wall panelling and timber flooring all needed rigid fixings and minimal void spaces to prevent unwanted distortion of sound and absorption of bass.
Artificial lighting enhances the sculptural quality and simplicity of the building externally while, internally, soft halogen lighting is harnessed to bring out the natural wood colours in the main auditorium. Focused light beams are used in main hall because of the exceptional height requirement and the user’s demands that performers must be able to read their music sheets easily, without dedicated lighting.


The Main Auditorium is air-conditioned, maintaining a stable temperature and humidity controlled environment, to allow music instruments to operate at its best normal and even tone. All internal spaces are mechanically ventilated. The main mechanical ventilation design criteria were to minimise the ventilation noise and vibrations using a low air flow rate, sound attenuators, spring mountings and careful sealing of penetrations. Airflow in the auditorium is through the floor plenum and through adjustable low noise nozzle directors over the stage area and rear surface. Stale air is removed by ducting in the ceiling plenums. A certain percentage of the conditional air is re-used foyers. Design specifications were laid down requiring a temperature of 22° with a moisture content of 50%. The complex is intended, primarily, for music performances by orchestras and choirs and is in daily use on a continuous basis by the Hugo Lambrechts Auditorium Association to enrich the community. The team effort – from the client, the consultants and main and sub-contractors – has resulted in a very special complex of exceptional standard, appropriate to its location and a focal point in the cultural environmental of the Western Cape.

  Cape Town :

Gauteng : | +27 (0)21 914 2340  |  Modena Building Level 5  |  Bella Rosa Village  |  Corner Durbanville Avenue
& Bella Rosa Street  |  Bellville  | +27 (0)11 327 6097  |  Ground Floor  |  33 Fricker Road  |  Illovo Boulevard  |  Illovo