Students from the Lehigh Valley Charter High School for the Arts’s choral group performed in Lehigh’s newly constructed dome between the Alumni Memorial Building and Packer Lab last Tuesday.
The new structure, Peggie’s Bell, is the one of the latest projects of the Lehigh’s architecture department that has been led by Richard Kroeker, a professor at Dalhousie University, and Anthony Viscardi, a professor in the art, architecture and design program.
“The performance was an invitation from Lehigh’s architecture department,” said David Macbeth, the artistic director of Lehigh Valley Charter High School For The Arts. “A member of the high school’s staff in conversation with Professor Kroeker had heard of how Peggie’s Bell was designed to enrich the sound of the human voice and was intended to be a space for choral performance.
“Professor Kroeker was a fan of renowned composer/conductor Eric Whitaker’s compositions and our choir’s a capella, close harmony style seemed to fit. The performance on this past Tuesday was a gift to Mr. Kroeker and Lehigh’s architecture department.”
According to the Art, Architecture and Design website, Kroeker has held multiple international guest professorships at universities ranging from Peter Behrens School of Architecture in Dussledorf, Germany, to University of Minnesota. Kroeker has also been a guest lecturer at multiple international institutions. In 2008, his body of work was recognized with an Eric Schelling Medal for Architecture.
Peggie’s Bell was constructed as a permanent installation of the 2015 Hammerschlag Design Series. The planning and design of the structure, supervised by Kroeker and Viscardi, were inspired by themes from nature and had a focus on ecological sustainability and usability. The shell, in particular, has both an aesthetic and practical utility as a space for students on campus.
Eli Hess, ’17, a teaching assistant and student in the architecture department was involved in the construction of the dome. Under the supervision of Kroeker and Viscardi, the 12 students enrolled in the Architecture 298 class placed and cemented tiles to construct the dome over the span of two months.
“Our new project has been the vault or dome, which (Kroeker) has constructed three before,” Hess said. “Basically, Peggie’s Bell is a large singing bell. It’s a place for musicians to perform. When you’re in the dome, the structure collects the sound and evens it out — almost amplifying it.”
The permanent structure will act at as an open performance space on campus. Students and choral groups will be free to use the space for musical performances, meetings and in many other ways. The natural aesthetic of Peggie’s Bell not only gives the space an organic, natural atmosphere, but the way in which it harnesses the sound of the human voice creates a visceral experience unlike many on campus.
“I definitely hope this space is used for music, or some kind of performance,” Hess said. “Despite being a little biased, I think it’s special to be in the dome itself. It’s just an interesting place to be, to do work, or simply just to talk to someone.”