Temple of acoustic music: Duke unveils the long-awaited Baldwin Auditorium facelift

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Baldwin before and after. Ray Walker (obscured) points out a detail of the renovations on the other side of a photo of the old interior. - PHOTO BY DAVID FELLERATH
  • Photo by David Fellerath
  • Baldwin before and after. Ray Walker (obscured) points out a detail of the renovations on the other side of a photo of the old interior.

A small group of clearly excited Duke officials greeted the media this morning. The occasion: the unveiling of a shimmering, newly renovated Baldwin Auditorium. As Duke Performances director Aaron Greenwald noted in preliminary remarks, the 685-seat facility is designed exclusively for acoustic music and as such, it will fill a niche in the area's acoustic music spaces.

Greenwald pointed out that Raleigh's Meymandi Concert Hall, the Triangle's premier recital venue, is more than twice the size of Baldwin.

Although the exterior of the building, which was completed in 1927, looks the same, the interior was gutted. Now, $15 million worth of renovations later, the auditorium is ready to become a world-class concert venue, according to Vice Provost for the Arts Scott A. Lindroth.

Lindroth believes the renovated Baldwin will become an artistic and cultural destination for not only the Duke community, but the Durham community as well. The Duke Endowment of Charlotte funded the renovation as part of a multi-building proposal that included Page Auditorium and others on campus.

While enhanced aesthetic appeal was a contributing factor to Baldwin’s renovation, the primary reason for the work was a much-needed improvement of sound quality. Ray Walker, the staff architect for the project, said renovations have been in the works since 2007. The school called in an architectural firm and a Connecticut-based group of acousticians to take on the project.

An acoustical shell of curved wooden panels, subtle modifications to the dome ceiling, acoustic draperies and a slew of other contemporary methods of controlling sound reverberation are part of the new design.

Most of the original architecture has remained intact throughout the remodel, and the new additions essentially create a more contemporary theater within the existing auditorium.

Greenwald said Duke Performances and the Department of Music will share the space and lists new chamber arts and vocal ensemble series as part of its upcoming performance season.

Duke's Department of Music will host an inaugural gala concert Sept. 14. Information here.

The first event by Duke Performances in the space will take place Sept. 21 and feature the Ciompi Quartet with the Kruger Brothers. Information here.

A few photos are below.

The new stage extends 8 feet beyond the original. - PHOTO BY DAVID FELLERATH
  • Photo by David Fellerath
  • The new stage extends 8 feet beyond the original.

Reupholstered seats and better acoustic design are features of the auditorium. - PHOTO BY DAVID FELLERATH
  • Photo by David Fellerath
  • Reupholstered seats and better acoustic design are features of the auditorium.

Thick dense doors separate the stage from the backstage area. - PHOTO BY DAVID FELLERATH
  • Photo by David Fellerath
  • Thick dense doors separate the stage from the backstage area.

A dramatic wood shell towers over the stage. - PHOTO BY DAVID FELLERATH
  • Photo by David Fellerath
  • A dramatic wood shell towers over the stage.

The view from the stage - PHOTO BY DAVID FELLERATH
  • Photo by David Fellerath
  • The view from the stage

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