Posted by on Feb 27, 2012 in Audio | No Comments

The Acoustical Renovation of Vancouver’s Queen Elizabeth Theatre
Presentation by John O’Keefe

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Tuesday, 28 February 2012
7:00 PM
Ryerson University
RCC 204, Eaton Theatre, Rogers Communications Building
80 Gould Street, Toronto, ON
Corner of Gould and Church, east of Yonge St (Dundas Subway)
For parking info and map, goto

Pre-Meeting “Dutch Treat” dinner 5:00 pm at the Pickle Barrel (corner of Edward and Yonge, just north of Dundas, in the Atrium)
This month’s meeting will be available live on-line, courtesy of Ryerson University at

After 16 years of design and delay, Vancouver’s Queen Elizabeth Theatre renovation is finally complete. Throughout that time, two conflicting priorities influenced the acoustic design. The room had to work for the unamplified Vancouver Opera, and the considerably amplified musicals and “soft seat” rock and roll shows that pay the bills 85% of the time. As such, the owner insisted that seat count was paramount. Recently, creative acoustic design has responded to the challenges put forth by increasingly innovative architectural designs.

In the case of the Queen Elizabeth Theatre, the acoustical challenges were dictated not by the architect but by the owner’s very real concerns about satisfying the acoustical needs of the opera and the need to pay the bills with a high seat count: in the range of 2,750. That meant a very wide room. Responding to this, the acoustical design borrowed ideas from Christchurch Town Hall and Berliner Philharmonie.

In 2007, one third of the construction budget disappeared and a complete acoustical re-design was initiated. The Berliner Philharmonie influence was lost and further emphasis was put on the Christchurch model, using reflectors in the ceiling and strategically located balcony facia reflectors. Using software intended for lighting in green buildings, the orientation of reflectors on the balcony facia was designed to within a single degree of tolerance. The result is a very wide post-war proscenium arch venue that completely covers the audience area with early lateral energy. The owner, the opera and the amplified acts all agree to the success of the renovation.


John O’Keefe received his Bachelor of Applied Science from the University of Toronto in 1981 then a Masters in Sound and Vibration Studies from Southampton University in 1985. Throughout his 25 year long career, John has channeled his passion for music, science and technology into buildings for the performing arts.

Local examples include the Princess of Wales Theatre, the Young Centre and The Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts, the latter done in association with Soundspace Design. Further afield his work includes the acoustic renovation of Vancouver’s Orpheum Theatre and the new Esplanade Arts and Heritage Centre in Medicine Hat and the acoustical renovation of Vancouver’s 2,750 seat Queen Elizabeth Theatre. John is a principal with Aercoustics Engineering Limited and has presented papers and lectures throughout the world. He is the winner of several awards including The Schreyer Award, the country’s highest distinction for engineering.

Aercoustics Engineering Limited

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