Hanson Associates (with sister company, ICE Design) undertook the acoustic design of the new dome-shaped courtroom in the Supreme Court complex in Wellington, NZ. The auditorium’s 3D elliptical profile presented significant design challenges as its acoustically undesirable shape would focus sound at many room locations. Untreated, the focusing would have created inarticulate and audibly uncomfortable sound for talkers and listeners alike.
Using acoustic absorption alone to solve this problem would have rendered the space too “dead” and lacking the necessary sense of space and grandeur for New Zealand’s highest court. To address this unique challenge, Hanson Associates developed an in-house computer modelling tool specifically to explore the focusing effect of various sound diffusing and absorbing surface combinations.
In response to the computer modelling outcomes, and inspired by the twirls of cones produced by the Kauri, NZ’s famous ancient native tree, architects Warren and Mahoney developed a solution with spiral-wrapped bands of diamond shaped and angled timber panels located at the key focusing regions. The result is not only an extraordinary architectural achievement, but also a very well sounding room with speech having extremely natural sound and high intelligibility for all listeners.