May 11, 2007

Langford renovation will enhance event capabilities

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When renovations are complete, Langford Auditorium will be better equipped to host theater and dance productions.

Langford renovation will enhance event capabilities

Langford Auditorium, Vanderbilt University Medical Center's largest indoor event space, is undergoing a $5.5 million renovation to accommodate its modern-day need to host theater and dance productions in addition to lectures.

Located next to Light Hall on the Medical Center campus, Langford was designed and constructed in 1976 as a 1,200-seat lecture hall. Since that time it has also been used for dance, theater and music productions — but not without some challenges.

“It wasn't originally designed to handle these productions. They used to have to bring in trailers out back for the backstage area,” said architect/planner Bobby Otten of VUMC's Office of Space & Facilities Planning.

“We believe with the renovation we will be able to accommodate, very comfortably, small dance and theater productions.”

The project, slated for completion in December, will replace outdated mechanical, electrical and AV systems, renovate the interior, and bring the auditorium up to an appropriate acoustical standard for lectures and amplified entertainment.

The lack of adequate backstage space is being addressed with a 2,800-square-foot expansion made possible by the MRBIV construction overhead.

“Somewhat by default, the MRBIV construction is adding some ancillary space to the back of the house that will be used for dressing rooms and restrooms,” Otten said.

“We have also worked to open up the pre-function area to take advantage of the north Light Hall lobby, so we are no longer limited to just the existing Langford lobby. The flow can now occur throughout the newly expanded Light Hall/MRBIV and Langford lobby.”

Langford hosts an average of 55 events annually, with one-third Medical Center-related and two-thirds central campus-related. Otten said he expects to see a substantial increase in those numbers due to the improvements.

“I think the end product will be a greatly-enhanced facility that people are going to love to come to, whether they are putting on an event or coming to watch an event,” he said.

“We don't have spaces that big on campus that will accommodate 1,200 people so that is part of the importance of renovating it and keeping it intact. It would be tough, and certainly costly in today's market, to duplicate this space elsewhere on campus.”

The project didn't come without challenges. The ceiling work is occurring 26 feet above floor level, coming off a sloped floor. The job site is tight in terms of accessibility.

Bidders in the current local market weren't easy to find for some trades.

“The ceiling will be a sloped, curving, drywall ceiling and the market is so busy out there that getting the craftsmen, locally, who can and want to do that type of work is a challenge,” Otten said.

“And then you think about bringing materials like scaffolding, drywall and such, into the middle of campus.”

Firms hired to work on the project include architect Donald Blair & Partners, Phoenix Design Group, Carpenter Wright Engineers, Acoustics Consultants, Theater Design Inc., and Anita Jorgenson Lighting Design. Turner Universal is the construction manager for the project.