College’s 1928 Swimming Pool Has a New Role as a Recital Hall

Studzinski Recital Hall
Bowdoin College’s new Studzinski Recital Hall seats 280 and has adjustable acoustics.

Brunswick, Me. — Bowdoin College’s old indoor pool has been busy from morning till night all this week, but the only people who have been getting wet are young musicians sweating through performances. Thanks to a $15-million renovation completed in May by William Rawn Associates, the six-lane swimming pool has been replaced by a showpiece recital space where young musicians of the Bowdoin International Music Festival are currently wowing listeners with piano trios and string quartets.

Designed by McKim, Mead & White and completed in 1928, the Curtis Pool remained in use until Bowdoin built a new field house in 1987. The old building, near the center of the campus, had been unused since. The renovation created a 280-seat hall whose acoustics can be adjusted using — among other devices — a series of curtains hidden within 10 mesh-screened pylons rising around the seating area. Kirkegaard Associates was the acoustical consultant on the project.

The renovation also added a lobby, a rehearsal room, a green room, nine music-practice rooms, and space for lockers in which instruments can be stored. The performance and practice spaces are isolated from one another so that they can be used simultaneously, and a double roof helps keep out the sound of bells that strike the hour in the towers of the nearby chapel.

The stage and seats occupy roughly the same space as the old pool, but improve on it with a pleasingly curved shape through which two aisles sweep like gentle waves. The resemblance to the old building pretty much ends there: The new stage, the deepest part of the hall, is where the shallow end of the pool used to be.

This is the second athletics building Bowdoin has reused since constructing its new field house. In 1995, the college opened a student union by Hardy Holzman Pfeiffer Associates in its original field house. The union is connected to the new recital hall by a long corridor that passes between weight rooms and under an old gymnasium that is still in use.

Studzinski Recital Hall
The exterior of the building, by McKim, Mead & White, is essentially unchanged.

Studzinski Recital Hall
Curtains concealed within mesh-covered towers at the edge of the seating area can be adjusted to change the acoustic properties of the hall.

Studzinski Recital Hall
A sign and a section of tile from the Curtis Pool were preserved and mounted near the doors through which performers enter the stage. (Chronicle photographs by Lawrence Biemiller)

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