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Developments in Auditorium Acoustic Design

Wednesday 17 October 2018, 1.30PM to 3pm

Speaker(s): Professor Rob Harris, University of Southampton


Auditorium acoustics is interesting in that objective science and engineering are employed to elicit subjective perceptions and emotions. This lecture discusses the auditorium acoustic design of concert halls, opera houses and theatres. It starts with describing some fundamental requirements for audiences, performers and other stakeholders. Both scientific and other factors are considered. The lecture will then look at how the art and science have developed over the last 35 years.  This will include the use of scale and computer modelling, the paradigm shift of auralisation and the integration of architecture and creative digital audio.  The scientific and engineering responses to changing artistic and audience needs will be examined.


After obtaining a BSc in Physics from Warwick University, Rob was a stage lighting designer, a fringe theatre technical director and a sound engineer in the West End of London and Canada, mixing major musicals such as Hair and Jesus Christ Superstar.

He obtained a MSc at the Institute of Sound and Vibration Research at Southampton University. He then worked in acoustics, mainly in the onshore and offshore oil industries. Rob returned to design for the performing arts by joining Arup. He left Arup after 33 years as an Arup Fellow and a Director of acoustics, theatre design and the Arts & Culture business.

In 2015 Rob formed Rob Harris Design Limited, providing his services as a leading international auditorium acoustic designer and theatre consultant.  Rob’s auditorium acoustic design credits include Bridgewater Hall Manchester, City Recital Hall Sydney, Glyndebourne Opera House, Bruges Concertgebouw, Wales Millennium Centre Cardiff, the Royal Opera House London, Copenhagen Opera House, Oslo Opera House, Kings Place recital hall London, the Bord Gáis Energy Theatre Dublin, Kristiansand Performing Arts Centre and the orchestral rehearsal / performance hall at Glasgow Royal Concert Hall. He recently worked on the feasibility study for the new Centre for Music (concert hall) in London and a new chamber music space for the Royal College of Music.  He has been responsible for many sound and electroacoustic systems, including sound reinforcement in auditoria and stadia, public address and voice alarm in multiple building types, sound masking and audible alarms.  His current projects include the Royal Opera House London, a new opera house in the Middle East, a large theatre in Shanghai and the West Kowloon Cultural District in Hong Kong.

Rob is a Chartered Engineer, a Fellow of the Institute of Acoustics (he was awarded the inaugural IOA Engineering Medal in 2004) and a Member of the Institute of Theatre Consultants. In 2009 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering.  In 2016 Rob was appointed as a Royal Academy of Engineering Visiting Professor in Auditorium and Building Acoustics at the Institute of Sound & Vibration Research, University of Southampton. He lectures to students in acoustics, architecture and music, at Southampton and elsewhere.

Location: PL002


Telephone: 4485

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