The design of the Strings Music Pavilion is unorthodox.
It's carpeted, which is supposed to deaden sound. Two of its sides are formed almost entirely out of glass, which is supposed to make acoustics unpredictable. And the sidewalls move away from one another at a steep angle, which is supposed to disperse sound too quickly.
But somehow, those elements meshed well enough to increase the festival's attendance while its peers saw audience sizes decrease. Strings Music Festival also earned the pavilion's designers Colorado Construction's Silver Hard Hat Award for creating one of the best Colorado architectural designs of 2008.
"It broke an awful lot of the acoustic rules that you normally put into a musical facility," said Bill Rangitsch, who works with Steamboat Architectural Associates and was the lead architect on the project. "This was the best compromise between the aesthetics of the building and the acoustics of most of the performers."
Kay Clagett, executive director of Strings Music Festival, said the design team negotiated expectations of longtime festival attendees who were accustomed to mountain views on either side of the old Strings Tent.
"These were things that were introduced simply because of what Strings has provided this community in terms of performance experience," Clagett said of the venue's open-air feel. "It was a challenge : and we worked very hard at making those things work for us musically."
The music hall's most notable design feature - that it resembles the inside of a violin - was not part of the original plan, Rangitsch said. The initial charge was more straightforward: make a building out of metal and wood.
To pull that off, Rangitsch - along with Colorado-based KL&A, Inc. structural engineers and British Columbia-based Spearhead Timberworks - designed multiple metal trusses and an arched wooden roof.
"Between the three of us we kind of worked different scenarios and it kind of evolved into that," Rangitsch said. "As we got into it, we realized it started to look like the neck and the bridge of a string instrument. It was just one of those things that evolved during the design process. Otherwise, things like that can kind of come off as forced or contrived."
Clagett said the pavilion project stood out not only for its design, but also for how quickly it came together. Steamboat's TCD Inc. finished the building in nine months; much of that time was spent battling about 500 inches of snowfall.
"It's just so unusual : not only how beautiful it is, but with all these other factors, building in the timeframe and how everyone worked together," Clagett said. The pavilion was designed primarily for classical music, and for that purpose it has exceeded expectations, she said.
"Everyone's focus was, let's make it right for the classical music, because that's the hardest thing to correct if you don't get it right from the start," she said. The acoustics inside the pavilion can get overly active during Different Tempo Series concerts featuring rock, folk or jazz ensembles.
Clagett said Strings is developing a list of logistics to work on during the next several years, such as how to manage amplified sound and how to cut out early evening sun. Despite its small challenges, Clagett considers the Strings Music Pavilion "a feather in the cap of the Steamboat community" that came just in time.
"If we had left the tent up, there was a strong likelihood that Strings wouldn't have made it, that the tent would have collapsed," Clagett said.
"With the extraordinary winter that we had and a tent that stays up through the winter, it would have been a pretty dicey situation. So I think the biggest thing that we're all reflecting on right now is how appreciative we are of getting this accomplished."