The Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall in Portland, Oregon, has undergone various reinventions since opening in 1928. It has served as a vaudeville hall, movie theatre and most recently as a live music venue, and has been home to the Oregon Symphony since 1984.
Despite the venue’s popularity, several challenges – including an ageing shell of reflecting panels on the sides and ceiling of the stage, and a lack of warmth and resonance in the acoustics – necessitated a renovation to ensure the facility could continue offering an enjoyable experience for patrons.
Maintaining the integrity of the historic space was key in this project. To limit the need for significant architectural alterations, Staging Concepts, a specialist in the design and engineering of staging equipment, worked with theatre consultant Shalleck Collaborative to create a solution making use of 3,750ft² (348.4m²) of previously unusable space above the decorative ceiling.
Combining its SC90 platforms with specially designed end framing for support, Staging Concepts developed an access platform system positioned 80ft (24.4m) above the main floor of the theatre. The custom catwalk incorporates aluminium Relia Beams to reduce the weight imposed on the existing structure. Staging Concepts also provided custom Relia Mounting Plates, as well as a steel and aluminium guardrail, which sits 14in (35.6cm) above the decorative plaster ceiling and allows staff to access the new audio system of more than 40 speakers and microphones. The access platform system was built to service the new Meyer Constellation sound system, which offers a new method to the venue’s sound management.
“This project has opened the door to new and exciting ways that we can work with theatres and music venues to offer the best possible experience for patrons while safely and effectively maximising space,” said Cindy Albrecht, director of sales and marketing for Staging Concepts. “Sound is such a crucial aspect of enjoying live events. The updated acoustics at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall will continue to delight music fans for years to come.”
The Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall project is an example of Staging Concepts’ ability to realise custom solutions. To install the access platform system, the Staging Concepts team worked with a variety of trades, including electrical and AV, for the layout of the platform paths. For the necessary access and to get the equipment into the venue undamaged, an opening was made in the ceiling, and a crane was used to load in the equipment, moving materials to an intermediate roof that provided access to the balcony of the seating area. From there, an access panel was removed, and the equipment was hoisted through it, and finally into the attic area for installation. All of this was done without the need for HVAC moves or welding, and without lasting change to the decorative ceiling. To finalise installation, steel plates were bolted to the existing steel roof trusses.
The overhaul was part of a US$9.6m project funded by a consortium that included the Oregon Symphony and the City of Portland. The venue reopened to the public in Autumn 2021.
Image: Staging Concepts