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View of Ford Auditorium interior with oaken acoustic ceiling


Ford Auditorium Renovation receives Architecture MasterPrize 2020 Architectural Design Award

"At its best, architecture and design is about embracing technology to set the imagination free. "
The Architecture MasterPrize
Before and after photos of the Ford Auditorium show the remarkable transformation.

Willett Engineering, a Gray company, is proud to have been a part of the design team lead by CEVIAN Design Lab for the Ford Auditorium Renovation, recipient of the Architecture MasterPrize 2020 Architectural Design Award in the category of Restoration and Renovation.


The English Gothic-style Ford Auditorium is a part of the Berry College campus in Rome, Georgia, and was constructed in 1928 at the direction of automaker Henry Ford. Serving as a concert hall for the college music program, the building needed acoustic improvement along with historic restoration.


From the Berry College website:


The historic venue underwent a $6.3 million renovation in 2019, resulting in a world-class performance space for Berry’s fine arts program. The renovation was led by architect Mark Cochran and Audrey Wynn Kendrick of Rome-based CEVIAN Design Lab. Following a plan developed by CEVIAN in conjunction with Kirkegaard Associates of Chicago, one of the nation’s foremost acoustics consulting firms, workers with JE Dunn Construction transformed the auditorium into a premier recital hall combining modern acoustics with restored historic touches.


Notable enhancements include a new oak tongue-and-groove radius ceiling and wood-carved acoustical paneling. Other improvements include new seating, a redesigned balcony, updated lighting and sound systems, an enlarged stage, and the restoration of historic features, such as woodcarvings, wood beams and stained glass, as well as the addition of mechanical curtain systems, climate-controlled instrument storage and a complete remodel of the lobby area.


Detail of oak tongue-and-groove acoustic ceiling
Detail of the acoustically-designed ceiling, structural engineering by Willett Engineering, a Gray Company.


Willett Engineering was called upon to tackle the structural implications of adding the new acoustic ceiling. Spearheaded by Principal Engineer Mac Willett, P.E., and Design Engineer Moumita Ganguly, the Willett team conducted a detailed analysis of the original structural roof members to ensure that the existing structure could support the added weight of the new ceiling.


The age of the building, now almost a century old, presented unique challenges.


“I created 3D models of the original existing roof trusses from photos and available original blueprints from the 1920s, which were at times hard to decipher. We had to research quite a bit to find information on the material strength of the components and connectors used for the trusses at the time,” Ganguly said.


With the insights gleaned from Ganguly’s models, the Willett team designed a framing plan to securely connect the new acoustic ceiling to the original roof trusses.


The result is a world-class auditorium with an acoustically superior space that preserves the venue’s treasured historic character.


The Ford Auditorium Renovation is one of 13 projects worldwide to receive the AMP award in the category of Restoration and Renovation. The winners were chosen by an international panel of expert architects, industry professionals and academics. The award honors excellence in design, innovation, and imagination. According to AMP, the MasterPrize honors “the talents of those who push boundaries and set new standards, who turn the ordinary into the truly extraordinary and inspire others, today and for generations to come.”


To view the complete list of 2020 MasterPrize winners, visit:

Willett Engineering is a Gray company.

Willett Engineering is a structural analysis and design company offering best-in-class development for industrial projects, educational facilities, offices, retail buildings, steel erection, and more. In 2018, Willett joined the Gray family of brands to complement its structural engineering services. As a Gray company, Willett continues to combine excellence in engineering with collaborative solutions, using the latest in technology and design.