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NYU Unveils New Audio Education Facility

NYU’s new James L. Dolan Recording/Teaching complex recording studio designed by WSDG.

Photo: Cheryl Fleming Photography

NYU’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development announces a groundbreaking new addition: the James L. Dolan Recording/Teaching complex at the Department of Music and Performing Arts Professions, which is said to be one of the most technically advanced audio teaching facilities in the United States. Created to provide students with an exemplary learning environment, the $6.5 million, 7,500-square-foot compound is devoted to contemporary music technology, including theory, cognition, informatics, computer music, recording, production and immersive audio.

“The scale and depth of the technological and acoustical capacity of this facility is unparalleled,” says Dr. Robert Rowe, vice-chair, director of music composition. “We are deeply appreciative of the contributions by James L. Dolan, president and CEO of Cablevision Systems Corporation and chairman of Madison Square Garden, and the Dolan Family Foundation, as well as New York University and the Steinhardt School, without whose support this dream could not have been realized.”

To create a teaching complex of this magnitude, an NYU Steinhardt School faculty team comprising Dr. Rowe, Tom Beyer (chief systems engineer/adjunct professor), program director Dr. Kenneth Peacock and Dr. Agnieszka Roginska (associate director of music technology) formed a master team of architects, acousticians and technologists.

“In 2007, when the entire sixth floor of our 35 West 4th Street building was dedicated to the new facility, we initiated a vigorous RFP process,” Dr. Rowe says. “Having worked on a number of NYU and Steinhardt projects, Gensler was an obvious choice as our primary architectural firm. The Walters Storyk Design Group was highly recommended for architectural and acoustical design. In addition to extensive high-end recording studio design credits, they have created many of this country’s finest audio teaching facilities.”

Describing their architectural program, Gensler principal and design director Keith Rosen comments, “The view into the control room through the reception area rear wall immediately establishes Steinhardt as an advanced teaching facility. The challenge was to fit an extremely dense program into a relatively tight space. To maximize the flexibility of the larger multifunctional spaces, such as the conference/performance room and study/pantry areas, we developed various private and shared spaces along a single circulation loop. Glass interior walls and doors provide students and faculty with natural light, a great asset in a facility with interior studios. Raised floor construction will ease changes in program and technology. The existing steel trusses slicing through the space were embraced as organizing elements for the control room and other critical sound isolation areas. The punched windows provide visitors with views into the recording studios. The design constraints we encountered have been turned into powerful aesthetic and way-finding elements.”

Walters-Storyk Design Group associates—systems integrator Judy Elliot-Brown; project manager Joshua Morris; technology integrator David Kotch; and architect/acoustician John Storyk—worked closely with the Gensler design team, which comprised project principal Joshua Katz; project managers Alfonso D’ Onofrio and Kent Hikida; project designer Kelly Combs; designer Joshua Geisinger and design director Keith Rosen. Together, they planned and executed the facility’s demanding recording studio and performance environments.

The complex is distinguished by a 25-seat control room/classroom, which
features a fully automated 48-channel SSL Duality Console, Lipinski
L707 and L150 sub speakers and the first Dangerous Music Monitor ST/SR 10.2 surround
installation in New York City. In addition to a live room large enough
to accommodate a small orchestra, the floor includes several research
laboratories, offices, a conference/seminar room and a large iso/drum
booth. Multiple windows and a full line of sight provide natural light

James L. Dolan 3-D Audio Research Lab

Photo: Cheryl Fleming Photography

A unique research lab dedicated to 3-D audio experimentation is
equipped with an innovative, reconfigurable grid outfitted with 16
Genelec speakers, two Genelec subs and multichannel miking, tracking
and playback options. The lab is also said to have an extremely low
(0.2-second) reverb time.

“The James Dolan Studio presented us with a number of inherent design
challenges, which required inventive solutions,” comments WSDG
co-principal John Storyk. “Paramount among these were three
floor-to-ceiling steel building trusses unfortunately and permanently
situated in areas, which impacted on our ability to situate the control
and live room doors where logic dictated. A significant design effort
and construction process was engaged to get these rooms to function at
optimal level. This was one of the project’s most demanding and
ultimately gratifying solutions. As a teacher and frequent lecturer at
many schools around the country, I am extremely aware of the need to
provide students with sufficient workspace and visual access to
instructors. Those issues were among our deepest concerns in developing
this design program.”

WSDG systems integrator Judy Elliot-Brown emphasizes initial concerns
over sufficient infrastructure to accommodate the massive conduit run
throughout the ceiling: “The voluminous number of unwieldy cables
coupled with the need to provide space for future technology and
convenient access points for maintenance and systems upgrades required
extraordinary preparation,” she says. “Our REVIT building information
modeling software played an indispensible role in putting this
intricate system together.”

WSDG associate David Kotch collaborated with Masque Sound on technology
selection and integration. “The NYU Steinhardt complex required a huge
number of tielines to accommodate its vast arsenal of technology,”
Kotch says. “Systems include two separate 10.2 surround installations,
a Dangerous Music ST/ST Monitor Controller for the recording studio’s
critical listening environment and a Renkus Heinz multi-configuration
speaker system for the large-screen, HDTV projector-equipped
conference/screening room. Additionally, we stipulated universal
Crestron Control to provide total touchscreen interface between audio
and video systems throughout the complex. HD/SDI & Composite video
routing systems, a Yamaha DME 64 Controller, two Soundweb London Blue
16 Processors and extensive microphone/speaker wiring enable students
to use the Loewe Theater, conference room, research lab, reception
area, offices, even bathrooms as live recording environments. Virtually
the entire complex is directly linked to the main control room.
Accommodating and engineering this system called for a herculean effort
from the entire design and installation group.”

Pictured in the James L. Dolan Recording/Teaching complex recording studio are, from left: James L. Dolan, president and CEO of Cablevision; Kristin Dolan, SVP of Cablevision Systems Corporation; WSDG co-principal John Storyk; Dr. Agnieszka Roginska, associate director of music technology; Tom Beyer, chief systems engineer/adjunct professor; and Dr. Robert Rowe, vice-chair, director of music composition. Pictured at far right is WSDG co-principal Beth Walters.

Photo: Cheryl Fleming Photography

“We are confident that the James Dolan Recording/Teaching Complex at
NYU’s Steinhardt School of Music and Performing Arts Professions marks
a significant advance in our ability to prepare students for successful
careers in the expanding field of music technology,” Professor Beyer
says. “It is important to note that while previous generations have
been primarily focused on the traditional arts of creating, recording
and mixing music for theatrical, broadcast, film, television and radio
productions, today’s professional music industry encompasses a
considerably wider and more technically demanding curriculum.”

“A wealth of new fields ranging from forensic audio reconstruction to
perceptual audio coding, virtual acoustics and videogame sound
development are expanding current and future employment environment
horizons,” Dr. Roginska concludes. “Computer science developments, new
job titles and entire new fields of research are surfacing on an almost
daily basis. The only way to prepare for this brave new world is
through education. It was the teams’ intention that the Steinhardt
School’s innovative Music Technology Complex will serve for many years
as an invaluable training portal for our next generation of audio

For more information, visit NYU’s Office of Public Affairs,,,, and Crestron Control Systems.