Inside Rensselaer
EMPAC Provides Meeting Ground for Sciences, Arts, Imagination

Supercomputing: Celebrating the CCNI
No one can say for sure what will happen in the Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center (EMPAC) following the three weekends of celebration planned to mark its grand opening on Friday, Oct. 3.

A home for a new intellectual community at the intersection of the sciences and the arts, the 220,000-square-foot building will become a creative laboratory for research, performance, and the development of revolutionary, world-changing new ideas.

The EMPAC ribbon-cutting ceremony will be held at noon
on Friday, Oct. 3, at the EMPAC East Entry Plaza.
To RSVP, go to

The extent of the innovation that can and will occur within EMPAC is limited only by the imaginations of the artists, scientists, performers, engineers, dreamers, or doers collaborating inside.

“Because EMPAC takes us into entirely uncharted territory, because it is impossible to define the concepts of the future, because we are moving to an age where complexity of challenges demands complexity of approach — it is logical that EMPAC will be and will become different things to different people,” says President Jackson.

“Some envision a platform for performance...others see EMPAC as a multi-tiered instrument of music, of movement, and of sound and light. Still others see it as an implement for research and innovation across a broad spectrum of fields. The truly unique and new will occur where all of these perspectives come together to intersect, collaborate, and create. I know of no other university making this degree of commitment to its intellectual and physical transformation.”

A look inside of EMPAC reiterates the building’s transformative nature. A single structure incorporating four distinct and specialized venues under one roof, EMPAC includes an acoustically optimized 1,200-seat concert hall for musical performances and ceremonies, a 400-seat theater, and two studios, measuring 3,500 and 2,500 square feet.

Designed to the highest professional standards to accommodate both the traditional performing arts and experimental media, each facility also can function as an environment for research at the leading edge of science, engineering, and the arts.

The concert hall, a world-class venue for orchestras, is equally capable of transforming into an immersive environment to allow for research that requires extreme visualization or simulation capabilities.

The theater’s 40-foot by 80-foot stage and 70-foot flytower meet the best standards of professional performing arts companies while providing a very rare facility for experimental artists. Lowering the fire curtain allows the stage to be used as a large lab in which any object, even of great weight, can be flown in the 3-D space under computer control.

Studios one and two are suited for music and dance presentations, respectively, but also are optimized for scientific visualization.

Studio Two
“When paired with the CCNI supercomputer, EMPAC will enable human-scale interactive exploration of immersive/sensory environments,” says John Kolb ’79, vice president for information services and technology and CIO. “This will allow broad exploration in fields such as dynamic investigation of fluid dynamics, artificial intelligence, free-space optics, molecular design, financial modeling, nanotechnology, gaming, and more.”

A pillar of The Rensselaer Plan launched more than eight years ago to raise Rensselaer to the top tier of research universities, EMPAC extends and amplifies the Institute’s long history of infusing creativity, inventiveness, and multidisciplinary collaboration into world-class technological education to prepare students to become global leaders with the ability and creativity to solve complex problems.

“EMPAC will prepare our students for global leadership roles,” President Jackson says, “by exposing them to experiences which will foster innovative problem-solving, multicultural sophistication, intellectual agility, and the ability to see connections between and among disciplines across a broad intellectual front.”

Often referred to by President Jackson, EMPAC Director Johannes Goebel, and others as representing “out-of-the-box” thinking, EMPAC is the physical manifestation of a calculated risk by Rensselaer leadership to delve into the unexplored and powerful nexus between the sciences and the arts.

This risk, now, has been augmented and given additional definition by the shared vision of the EMPAC staff, the faculty who already are doing EMPAC-related research, and the campus community.

Through research already under way to advance artificial intelligence, architectural design, and modern healthcare practices, and artistic performances that have pushed the boundaries of experimental media and the performing arts, the Institute is already beginning to see the results of the collaborative, creative environment EMPAC will provide.

And the best, according to President Jackson, is yet to come. “I encourage every member of the Rensselaer community to join us as we celebrate the opening of EMPAC, and beyond the celebrations, to explore what EMPAC can become for you.”

“I guarantee that it will be challenging. I guarantee that it will be new. I guarantee that it will transform how we regard science, technology, and the arts, and their nexus — how we interact with the future, and how we see ourselves as human beings.”
* * *
Send comments to:
Inside Rensselaer, Strategic Communications and External Relations
1000 Troy Building, 110 Eighth Street, Troy, N.Y. 12180 or to
Inside Rensselaer
Volume 2, Number 15, September 19, 2008
©2008 Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
Front Page
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute | About RPI | Virtual Campus Tour | Academics | Research | Student Life | Admissions | News & Events