Huge, high-end sound at UCSD's planned downtown venue

From a cathedral to completely dead alcove and everything in between

Acoustics in the 300-seat auditorium will be “tune-able” for every situation.
  • Acoustics in the 300-seat auditorium will be “tune-able” for every situation.

“We’re opening a downtown facility with a working title of ‘U.C. San Diego Urban’,” says Daniel Atkinson, director of public programs UCSD Extension, who also acts as the founder of the UCSD Jazz Camp and the jazz program coordinator of the Athenaeum Music & Arts Library.

“We broke ground in August of 2017. The building will be located at the corner of Park and Market, it will span the entire block to 11th Street and ultimately it will complete a trolley connection between the border and the main campus in La Jolla.”

The new downtown site will be a four-story building that comes with a $42 million-dollar price-tag, and its ground-floor will include a multifunction auditorium available to the San Diego community. 

“We’re designing the venue to be extremely flexible,” Atkinson continued. “We want it to be a great space for many uses.” 

In its largest capacity, the venue will seat 300 in an auditorium setup with a modular stage at one end, although there are several variations available. Atkinson is excited about the employment of an extremely high-end sound system. “The room will really be set up for sound, we’re going to be able to change the room’s acoustics and tailor it for different uses – making it “tune-able” for every situation from spoken word to folk music, unamplified chamber music, lightly amplified jazz all the way to highly amplified rock, pop and electronic music. We’ll also use the room for play readings and panel discussions.”

How does this work? “It’s a customized setup that involves an array of microphones and small speakers that you don’t see feeding a bank of computers that analyze the room and adjust it. So with the push of a button you can adjust the reverb, for instance, from the huge sound of a cathedral down to completely dead alcove and everything in between.” A similar system is employed at UCSD's Experimental Theater at a cost of several hundred thousand dollars.

“The best thing about it is it is so transparent that you really don’t know it’s there,” Atkinson said.

The facility won’t be open until early 2021, but UCSD is already working to make their presence known to the downtown community. “We’ve been working with everyone from business leaders to the arts community, educators and the technology sectors for input. Our chancellor issued a directive to make this building a place that welcomes everyone.”

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