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Conrad Prebys Music Center taking shape at UCSD

Project just one of many funded by philanthropist

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A new $53 million state-of-the-art music building with a 400-seat recital hall will enrich the University of California, San Diego's performing arts program. As prominent as this project will be, it is but one of the many projects touched by philanthropist and developer Conrad Prebys.

Last year UCSD announced that Prebys, who has also developed some 6,000 apartment units, had contributed $6 million to the Music Center and its concert hall that will be named for him.

In May, he made a $3 million gift to the UCSD music department to establish the Conrad Prebys Music Endowment. The endowment will be used to support the department at the discretion of the department chair, and will likely fund equipment purchases and graduate fellowships.

The Conrad Prebys Music Center is now under construction on Russell Lane near the campus' southern entrance, and is expected to have its first move-ins in the spring of 2009, with completion in the fall of next year.

UCSD’s $53 million art building will contain a 400-seat recital hall, professional recording facilities, computer music labs, acoustically designed practice rooms and many other features.

Roughly $42 million is coming from funds generated by the University of California system. Other donors include Padres owner John Moores, who gave $1 million, and Joel and Anne Reed, parents of a UCSD graduate student, who provided $350,000.

The venue will be too small to accommodate a full orchestra. Full orchestra concerts and other events requiring a larger stage will remain at Mandeville Auditorium.

Though the Music Center may not be large, Seattle-based LMN Architects and Cyril Harris, a world-renowned acoustician who also worked at the Neurosciences Institute in La Jolla, say they hope to make the hall one of the finest of its size in the world. Harris, who is in his 90s, has indicated this will be his final project. Acoustical Designing in Architecture, co-authored by Harris and V.O. Knudsen, is considered a bible of acoustic design.

The hall will feature a suspended structure with faceted triangular panels, creating a seamless transition between what would be the ceiling and the walls -- a space designed to envelop the audience with sound.

Built of cast-in-place concrete and aluminum/glass curtain wall, the Music Center will also include a small, flexible hall for multimedia and music theater works, a 150-seat lecture/recital hall, and rehearsal rooms for chamber, choral, orchestral and music for percussion instruments.

The building will also feature professional recording facilities; computer music labs; acoustically designed practice rooms and offices; and a large courtyard that doubles as a performance space, taking advantage of San Diego's usually fine weather. Some of the spaces also open up on a park that could be used for performances as well.

"Some 'lobby' spaces are actually outdoor courtyards," said Mark Reddington, an LMN Architects partner.

Many interior spaces will also have views of landscaped courtyards and outdoor areas.

When it opens, the Music Center will present a range of concerts from classical music to innovative new works incorporating cutting-edge technologies. It will also be an education center, as budding musicians from San Diego schools will visit to attend concerts, clinics and classes.

"The Music Center is being designed to encourage a wide range of collaborative efforts," Reddington said. "This project will encourage a wide range of performances from completely electronic to natural acoustic."

LMN has designed more than 40 arts buildings, including 16 concert halls and other music performance venues.

PCL Construction Co., which also worked on the Balboa Theatre restoration, is the general contractor.

Both LMN and PCL also are on the team handling the transformation of the Old Globe Theatre complex into the Conrad Prebys Theatre Center. That project will include a new second stage 250-seat arena-style theater, an education center that wraps around the theater on its uppermost level and a complete redesign of the Globe's plaza. Artistic support spaces such as a new green room and dressing rooms for both the arena theater and the outdoor Lowell Davies Festival Theatre will also be built.

Reddington said the effect will be "an intensely intimate experience in the new performance space."

Prebys provided $10 million to get the Globe project going, with the largest donation ($20 million) coming from Donald and Darlene Shiley.

These aren't the only places where Prebys has put his name and his money. He also handed over $10 million to double the size of Scripps Mercy Hospital's emergency facilities. That donation, while identical to the amount given to the Globe, was the largest gift in Scripps Mercy history.

Prebys' funds are expected to enable Scripps Mercy to handle some 50,000 emergency room and 2,200 trauma patients each year.

The expanded critical care facility is now known as the Prebys Pavilion for Emergency & Trauma Services.

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