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Sound-resistant partition walls take a bow at Mercury Store in NYC

In transforming a 100-year-old metal foundry into a start-up for theatre artists, CO Adaptive Architecture was challenged to create two separate sound-resistant spaces. Long-time Hufcor distributor, Metrofold explores how the design team leveraged two movable partition walls to achieve an STC of 54 while ensuring flexibility.

Originally built as a metal foundry 100 years ago, the warehouse space in Gowanus, Brooklyn, has now been transformed into The Mercury Store. The approximately 13,000-square-foot venue serves as a start-up space for theatre artists such as stage directors, choreographers, and devisers. The new state-of-the-art facility provides flexible room, light, and inspiration for the theatre, dance, and music artists who rehearse and perform there.


Architect brings vision to project

Just opened in June 2021, The Mercury Store represents a transformation of space. Following the design visions of CO Adaptive Architecture PLLC, the team at Yorke Construction Corporation brought new life to the old industrial facility.


The construction group restored and repaired the existing masonry structure, completely replaced all the windows and skylights, and reinstated the existing clerestory above the main assembly spaces. They added structural steel reinforcements to create a double-height assembly space, overhauled the mechanical, electrical, and plumbing operations, and installed one of New York City’s first glulam beam/column and cross-laminated timber flooring systems.


However, before the first board was nailed into place, the team at CO Adaptive Architecture brought the redesign to life. The Brooklyn-based firm specializes in creative reuse of spaces with a low carbon footprint and high energy efficiency.


“This project represents a dream come true for us; restoring an old building, giving it a new use, and taking it into the next century,” said Ruth Mandl, AIA, principal of CO Adaptive Architecture. “We are a process-oriented architectural practice focused on retrofitting our existing building stock to create energy-efficient, climate-resilient, and spatially beautiful environments.”


Best-in-class movable partition walls

Soaring spaces were created within one side of the double A-frame warehouse by removing a floor. The open rehearsal and performance areas expose the beautiful existing heavy timber trusses and wood roof joists. All existing windows and skylights were replaced allowing natural light to wash the interior.


To break the space up as needed, while ensuring sound control for the performers, CO Adaptive team members explored partition wall options early in the design phase. They also consulted with acoustical design experts at Charcoalblue, a leading international theatre, acoustic, and design consultancy service.


“The client’s goal was always to create a flexible environment,” said Mandl. “That meant incorporating best-in-class acoustical partition walls. We needed these walls to meet extremely high partition heights of 20 feet, plus pass sound isolation test requirements and fire ratings, all while staying within our cost limits. After an extensive search, we determined that Hufcor was the only partition manufacturer that met all of our constraints and needs.”


Importance of sound control

When fully occupied, The Mercury Store can potentially host several unique performances simultaneously. During the design phase, CO Adaptive imagined the large space being cut in half to concurrently host rock bands and impassioned theatre productions.


“The Mercury Store owners wanted to have the flexibility of using the large double-height space as two completely sound-isolated studios,” said Mandl. “In their minds, that meant the possibility of deep bass sounds in one half of the room not transferring into the other section where a soliloquy might be practiced at the same time.”


To ensure the highest level of sound constraints, the architects, alongside their acoustical consultants, decided to have two identical Series 642 operable paired panel partition walls in the space, separated by an airspace of just 4-1/2 feet. Each partition has steel sheets inside, to help gain an STC rating of 54 for this project. The movable panels are nominally 4 inches thick and have a 16-gauge steel frame. CO Adaptive customized the panels by choosing white trim with a Harmony face finish sound-absorbing fabric covering from Hytex. The fabric is made from 100% recycled content that complies with Class A fire surface burn specifications.


The wall-to-wall operable panels may be stacked at either or both ends of the overhead track, or in a pocket area. Because they are available in a maximum height of 24 feet, 3 inches, the panels were ideal for the project.


Putting movable partition walls to the test

To complete the acoustical sound barrier and provide a flow of light between the two spaces, CO Adaptive and Charcoalblue specified a trapezoid clear glass window above the partition walls. Made of four layers of glass in different thicknesses, the window has a variety of air spaces between the glass. In addition, the skylight at the top of the building is made of high-performance glass.


According to Karl Franklin Allen, production and facilities manager at The Mercury Store, CO Adaptive’s design and product recommendations have been extremely successful.


“The ease of use and effective sound isolation are excellent,” said Allen. “The partition walls are much easier to operate than any I’ve experienced in the past. Right now all of our studios are booked. We’ve been working with the partitions in place almost exclusively, and they’re working quite well.


“Oftentimes guests don’t even realize there’s another studio on the other side,” Allen continued. “It definitely looks and feels like a solid wall. The Hufcor partition panels allow us flexibility to expand and adapt our spaces to meet a variety of needs and challenges.


“In addition, the trapezoid window at the top helps spread the natural light through both rooms, Allen said. “We’ve gotten a good number of compliments on the glass. Together, they’re an attractive and effective way to establish two separate performance areas.”


To learn more about acoustics in operable partitions and flexible space management, contact us today!