St George's Hall, Liverpool is a magnificent Grade I listed building dating from 1854. It stands next to a smaller Concert Room which was opened two years later. Located on Lime Street in the city centre, this area is part of Liverpool's World Heritage Site. The Hall was described by Nikolaus Pevsner as one of the finest neo-Grecian buildings in the world, and in the early 2000s it underwent a £23 million renovation, culminating in an official reopening in 2007.
Though visually spectacular, the Hall has an exceptionally reverberant and sometimes confusing acoustic which can present problems, in particular if used for functions involving amplified music and speech. Preliminary tests using balloons indicated reverberation times of up to 4.7 seconds. This was a higher figure than that of the Royal Albert Hall, despite being a much smaller internal volume.
In 2016 the management of the Hall appointed Event Design to assess the range of uses from which the Hall could benefit, including receptions, banqueting, exhibitions and performances of amplified and unamplified music. These uses would all require acoustic improvement and locally based acoustician Iain Critchley was approached.
Iain had worked previously with Adrian James Acoustics at the Liverpool Hope University, and knew that we specialise in acoustically challenging buildings. We were therefore able to work together on initial tests, before being appointed to design an acoustic treatment which would not impact on the historic fabric of the building.
Because of the architectural status of the building, any treatment would need to be reversible in order to revert to the existing acoustic for organ recitals if necessary. Following extensive CATT-Acoustic modelling, our report offered different solutions in order to accommodate a variety of scenarios and costs. Sound auralisations featuring speech, solo cello and orchestral music were created, giving clear comparisons between treated and untreated options. We also specified a range of panels, portable screens and curtains.
Although our recommendations have not yet been finally instigated, the report has enabled the management to install these improvements as soon as required. General Manager Alan Smith commented recently, “The design has been extremely useful and is still a reference point for the hall."