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Steel Shots: Seismically Sound
Posted by Tasha Weiss on October 7, 2012 at 12:54 PM.


A seismically sound new performing arts center on the California State University, Northridge campus connects campus and community in the San Fernando Valley north of Los Angeles. This photo shows the construction of the seating balcony risers which were cast on permanent steel-framed formwork, eliminating the need for temporary concrete forming and shoring. Photo: Lee Choo, Courtesy of California State University, Northridge


For nearly two decades, Northridge has been known as the center of the 1994 earthquake of the same name.


But as of last year, it has become an epicenter of the arts with the opening of the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC). Located on the California State University, Northridge campus, VPAC brings a world-class performance hall to the San Fernando Valley north of Los Angeles and creates a dramatic inviting gateway between the school and the community.


Designed by HGA Architects and Engineers, the $98 million, 166,000-sq.-ft facility features a 1,700-seat public performance hall as its centerpiece. The Great Hall is designed as an acoustically superior, flexible performance space, accommodating symphonic orchestra, theater, musical performance, dance, opera, lecture and film. The VPAC complex, part of the university’s Mike Curb College of Arts, Media and Communication, also includes a 178-seat flexible “black box” theater, the campus radio station, a 230-seat lecture hall and rehearsal, educational and performance support spaces.


The VPAC design team was challenged by the high seismic demands of southern California coupled with the irregular geometry of the performance hall. Design elements such as large cantilevered roofs, tall glass walls and tiered seating balconies added further complexity to the structural design.


Both steel and concrete systems were evaluated for the performance hall structure. To accurately compare costs, both systems were evaluated with finishes providing the same level of required acoustic performance. The evaluation revealed comparable superstructure costs. However, the large mass of a concrete system would have increased seismic forces and penalized the foundations, and a steel-framed solution was therefore chosen.


You can read more about the VPAC project and its elegant and innovative use of structural steel in the October 2012 issue of MSC (available now!). Click here for a PDF of the article.

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