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EMPAC Unveiling

by
Shirley Ann Jackson, Ph.D.
President, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

Media Briefing
The Duke on 42nd Street
229 West 42nd Street, New York, New York

Monday, November 17, 2003


Good afternoon.

In September, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute broke ground on one of the most exciting and unique projects in its long and distinguished history — the Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center, or, EMPAC.

We believe EMPAC will be a powerful and creative presence on our Troy campus, in New York State's Capitol Region, in the Northeast United States, and, indeed, on the world cultural stage.

* Sir Nicholas Grimshaw, founder of a renowned architectural firm, will unveil the design for the EMPAC building. Responding to a complex program and unique site high above the Hudson River, his firm has given us an elegant, yet practical design, giving form to our vision.

* Then, Director of EMPAC, Johannes Goebel will give you a taste of the exciting EMPAC program, and explain how building and program have been tightly fused from the outset.

* It falls to me, as President of Rensselaer, to share our vision for this project ó to show you why Rensselaer has chosen to commit not only its resources, but also a large measure of its aspirations, to creating EMPAC.

When I was inaugurated as President of Rensselaer in September 1999, I articulated a vision to move Rensselaer into the very top tier of the world's technological research universities.

We are animating that vision. Driven by the Rensselaer Plan — our strategic blue print — we are experiencing a renaissance at Rensselaer, unlike any seen in its storied history.

Over the past four years, we have made enormous strides. Our budget has increased as has philanthropic support, and funded research in exciting new fields. We have recruited distinguished scholars, opened new research and education facilities, and attracted record numbers of the best and very diverse students. We improved the student learning experience, campus facilities, and our academic programs, including a new Ph.D. program — architectural sciences — unique in its conception — focused on acoustics, lighting research, and computational design. Synergy, and exploiting the interdisciplinary, built on the fundamentals, are core to everything we do.

EMPAC is a key, strategic component of our vision.

EMPAC will be a major art institution with international scope, set within a university dedicated to the highest achievement in science and technology, research and discovery, innovation and intellectual creativity. Sitting by design, at the nexus of technology and the arts, EMPAC will inspire experimentation, cross-disciplinary inquiry, and advanced research at the intersections of disciplines. EMPAC is both an art institution and a research platform. Therein lie its daring and its promise.

When the public comes to the EMPAC concert hall, theater, and studios, it will find beautiful spaces, both astoundingly flexible and sophisticated — designed and built to the most exacting acoustical and performance standards — to support the highest levels of both classical and contemporary performing arts. At the same time, because of the imbedded technology installed today, yet able to evolve tomorrow, these same spaces will provide platforms for the best audio and video production, and will drive and support research and experimentation in acoustics, simulation, visualization, and animation. They will allow the marriage of live arts with digital and other experimental media. We are very excited about the uniqueness of EMPAC, but equally important, the uniqueness of the creativity that will derive from it.

Before I relinquish the podium, I would like to recognize those members of the Rensselaer project management team who are in attendance. This team has done an outstanding job of bring us to where we are today. Please allow me to introduce:

* Dr. Cynthia R. McIntyre, Chief of Staff for the President and Assistant Secretary of the Institute. Dr. McIntyre has and will continue to shepherd this project from conception through to completion.

* Dr. John Tichy, Professor and Chair of the Mechanical, Aerospace and Nuclear Engineering Department at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Dr. Tichy chaired the task force which laid out the original and visionary program for EMPAC.

* Alan Balfour, Dean of the School of Architecture, created and oversaw the international competition which brought us the architectural firm of Nicholas P. Grimshaw and Partners.

* Claude Rounds, Vice President for Administration. Mr. Claude oversees the Capital Project Group responsible for EMPAC project management.

* Martin Moore, the Rensselaer Client Representative, coordinates all of the projectís consultants, assuring that the necessary mechanical elements and spaces meet the requirements of the program.

* And, of course, Johannes Goebel, EMPAC Director, from whom you will hear shortly.

Of course, on a project of this size and scope, there are many consultants involved, as well:

* Davis Brody Bond, LLP [Architect of Record]

* Buro Happold [Consulting Engineers]

* Tishman Construction Corporation [Construction Manager]

* Donnell Consultants, Inc [Quantity Surveyor]

* Fisher Dachs Associates [Project Manager]

* Kirkegaard Associates

* The Kreisberg Group, Ltd [Public Relations]

* Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates [Landscape Architects]

* Office for Visual Interaction [Architectural Lighting]

* Shen, Milsom & Wilke [Information Technology Consultant]

And now, please welcome Sir Nicholas Grimshaw, knighted by Queen Elizabeth in July 2002 and Johannes Goebel, who will tell you about the details of the project — the details, of course, being where the true ingenuity of EMPAC resides.

Sir Nicholas Grimshaw began his own practice in 1965, immediately after graduating from the Architectural Association in London. He formed his present firm, Nicholas Grimshaw and Partners, in 1980. To date, his firm has won more than 80 awards, for important works such as International Waterloo Station in London and The Eden Project in Cornwall. The firm's second New York State project will be the Fulton Street Transit Center, near the World Trade Center site. We're very pleased to say, Rensselaer got the first. Please join me in welcoming Sir Nicholas Grimshaw.

Every new endeavor must have a very important initiative in Music and Acoustics, and then as founder and head of the Institute for Music and Acoustics at ZKM, the Center for Art and Media Technology in Karlsruhe, Germany. He is truly that rare individual who combines the practical with the visionary, the artistic with the technological. Please welcome Johannes Goebel.

As we conclude the formal part of our presentation, I suggest that we recall the debate which C.P. Snow articulated in his celebrated 1959 book, The Two Cultures and the Scientific Revolution. Snow argued that the culture of science and technology was becoming unintelligible to people trained in the arts and humanities, and that the culture of the arts and humanities was becoming similarly foreign to scientists and engineers. We at Rensselaer believe that EMPAC will bridge, indeed will meld, the two cultures, doing so in a way that is not superficial, but, rather, engages our intelligence and our integrity.

On behalf of all of us at Rensselaer, I look forward to welcoming you at EMPAC, so you can judge our accomplishments for yourselves.


Source citations are available from the division of Strategic Communications and External Relations, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Statistical data contained herein were factually accurate at the time it was delivered. Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute assumes no duty to change it to reflect new developments.

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