At Musée Yves Saint Laurent Marrakech, a multipurpose recital hall offers intimacy, flexibility, and exceptional acoustics

December 14, 2017

A museum honoring the legacy of iconic French fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent opened in October on the grounds of Jardin Majorelle—a 12-acre botanical garden, artist’s landscape, and museum complex in Marrakech, Morocco.

The new 43,000-square-foot Musée Yves Saint Laurent Marrakech houses a collection of thousands of Laurent’s iconic couture dresses and jewelry and features two exhibition halls, a grand entrance atrium, and a coffee shop. At the center of the building is a versatile, 115-seat multipurpose recital hall for informational screenings, acoustic and amplified music, theatrical events, conferences, film, and live telecasts.

To accommodate all those uses, we designed the intimate auditorium, including the theatre equipment and acoustic environment, to allow the room to work as a first-rate cinema and conference room as well as a dynamic recital hall. Working with architect Studio KO, we designed an ergonomically, acoustically, and aesthetically comfortable and inviting room that envelops performers with the audience and creates a shared experience. With sensitive and seamless integration of the technical systems, audiences can focus on performances, not on the theatre equipment. The result is a multifaceted technical jewel and a highly versatile, immersive space.

Yves Saint Laurent’s longtime friend, companion, and business partner, Pierre Bergé, was the driving force behind the museum and served as president of the Yves Saint Laurent Foundation, which funded the project. For the auditorium, Bergé sought to create a venue of exceptional acoustic quality, capable of hosting some of the world’s greatest musicians.

Sound-diffusing panels were tailored to enhance the richness of sound and create a sense of spaciousness—critical for classical music. Above the stage, architecturally cohesive reflectors control echoes and direct sound toward the audience. Embedded in the side walls, a variable acoustic system controls reverberation time, reducing it to as little as 0.2 seconds for medium frequencies. We managed the hall’s sound isolation, designing a double-skin room envelope and lobby access through specially designed doors, which block intrusive noise levels up to 20 decibels.

Adjustable acoustic walls, highly responsive lighting, and cutting-edge projection and sound systems provide exceptional performance flexibility, allowing the room to effortlessly adapt to each event and user. The theatre features a portable sound reinforcement system, 48-channel digital mixing console, digital recording and playback equipment, intercom system, simultaneous translation devices, and wireless transmission for the hearing impaired. The state-of-the-art projection system allows for informational videos, film, and telecasts of live performances—streamed into the theatre through an integrated satellite reception system.

With a system of motorized battens in the ceiling, lighting can be easily loaded and adjusted. Performance lighting in the auditorium is made up entirely of LED fixtures controlled through a digital lighting console over an Ethernet network. Architectural lighting in the auditorium is integrated artfully into the room and operates with a Paradigm system of automated lighting control. The lighting control allows users to save and recall different illumination settings and to activate or deactivate different zones of the pre-set states.

Anticipating that, on most days, visitors would steadily cycle in and out of the museum, we concentrated our design on public ease-of-access, logical and efficient circulation, and audience comfort.

In addition to the versatile auditorium, we were responsible for the acoustic environment throughout the entire museum. Our work ensured that exhibit space was free of intrusive exterior and mechanical noise and could function as intended—fostering thought and reflection into the work of Yves Saint Laurent and the culture he helped shape.

At Musée Yves Saint Laurent Marrakech, a multipurpose recital hall offers intimacy, flexibility, and exceptional acoustics
Credit: Courtesy of Studio KO
At Musée Yves Saint Laurent Marrakech, a multipurpose recital hall offers intimacy, flexibility, and exceptional acoustics
Credit: Courtesy of Studio KO
At Musée Yves Saint Laurent Marrakech, a multipurpose recital hall offers intimacy, flexibility, and exceptional acoustics
Credit: Courtesy of Studio KO