New Awards for Historic Baldwin Auditorium

Auditorium garners regional, national construction awards

Duke's new-look Baldwin Auditorium isn't just drawing crowds since reopening after a $15 million renovation. It's getting plenty of attention from the architectural community as well.

Last week, Duke and the Baldwin project contractor received a national Excellence in Construction Award from the Associated Builders and Contractors, Inc. trade group, the first national award of its kind given for a Duke building. Ray Walker, staff architect and project manager responsible for overseeing the project, accepted the award at a presentation ceremony on Feb. 11.

"Awards like this are meaningful because they represent the entirety of the process, from design to construction," said Paul Manning, director of project management for Facilities Management. "There are all sorts of parameters that are considered that include budget, schedule and scope and none of those are goals we sacrificed for Baldwin."

This national award comes after a regional award also presented this month. Baldwin, which was completed in 1927, was selected as a Pinnacle Award winner by the North and South Carolina chapter of the Associated General Contractors of America. Renovations to the building were paid for through a gift from The Duke Endowment.

For both awards, the Baldwin renovation was highlighted for its balance between keeping historical aspects while modernizing the space. The structure itself wasn't changed, but the interior space was enhanced with all the trappings of a 21st century concert hall and has applied to receive a silver certification from the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program.

During the two-year project to reconstruct the inside of the nearly 90-year-old Baldwin, crews completely changed the space's acoustics. They altered the shape of the auditorium from square to rectangle, added new acoustic tiles and wood paneling and installed a system of movable drapes, allowing the space to be "tuned" to each individual performance and ensuring musical notes carry to every corner of Baldwin, and a drum's bass to each seat.

Also, the depth of Baldwin's stage doubled and now stretches 40 feet toward the audience. New seats were also installed in front of the stage and on a new, extended balcony that provide Baldwin with a more intimate theater experience seen in many modern theaters, including the Durham Performing Arts Center, Manning said.

On the stage, 75,000 small holes - similar to an air hockey table - push air-conditioned air up to performers to keep them cool during shows.

The renovated Baldwin officially re-opened in late 2013.

"I've been in building and construction for 36 years and I love it when we’re able to reuse and restore buildings instead of just replacing them," Manning said. “We've learned so much in the 90 years since Baldwin was built, and it's amazing we were able to take this beautiful piece of architecture and today's technology to create something that's state of the art."