February 7, 2023 Posted by Shawn Conyers

The Future of Public Media

WOSU Andy and Sandy Community Room

The history of radio and broadcast media is seeped in a tradition of innovation. Amongst the first universities to integrate this technology was OSU in 1920, with the birth of WOSU. With each new innovative technology, WOSU Public Media added FM radio, and TV, later integrated production into the Center of Science and Industry (COSI) programming. However, as WOSU grew, it became limited by its physical space in the Fawcett Center.

WOSU's new headquarters and part of the Ohio State University's 15th and High Development

The organization’s growth prompted a move to The Ohio State University’s new arts district at 15th and High. It occupies an important place in the community, and its design helps the pedestrian transition from the university to the residential neighborhood. At its centennial, the new headquarters looks to the organization’s future while honoring the past.

Bringing the outside in and inside out

The architecture and interiors team worked seamlessly to develop the organization’s and its staff’s specific needs. Vital to the design of the building was to create spaces that promoted the cross-pollination of departments to innovate, find new ways of doing things, and create more connections with the community of students and greater Central Ohio. Faced with the push and pull of these forces and the constraints of an urban site, the building’s design developed into a prominent example of WOSU’s goals of transparency and welcome, connecting the university to the surrounding residential neighborhood.  

When viewed from the bustling High Street, the WOSU building appears tucked behind the buildings that line its corridor, with the visible corner encased in glass, inviting the pedestrian to investigate closer. Pushed back from the property’s setback line offers an outdoor amenity that activates the area and further engages the community while accommodating the tight site constraints. Visible is the creative stacking of the programming – TV and radio studios, content production, workspaces, and community spaces – offering the visitor a sense of light and clarity of the organization.

Developing site connectivity in plan and facade studies.

WOSU Exterior from the North showing the public entrance off of Pearl Alley.

Main entrance at 14th and Pearl.

The public "free zone" for the visitor, includes a reception area and flexible community studio on the ground floor.

Design techniques adapted from sports & recreation planning are applied at the street level, pulling the community in to experience WOSU’s offerings while maintaining control points to more private areas. Two entrances, one at the front (south) and one rear (north), are offered to the public through their generous use of glass contrasting with the exterior brick wrapper. This public “free zone” for the visitor, along with a reception area and flexible community studio on the ground floor, helps maintain private and secure spaces for the staff while creating a narrative of WOSU’s history and a path toward the future with its community. Secured from the public are also private spaces for core functions of the building with its tech core, green room, and loading dock. Interior materials are honest and raw, exposed rather than hidden away, and these workings showcase the spirit of the building’s connectivity through the display of its technology within. Each moment presents an opportunity to share a particular story during tours about a supporting design decision that invites exploration.

Seen by the pedestrian through the windowed facade, the grand staircase becomes a defining feature of the building that connects the above-grade floors to become a venue for interpersonal connection between departments. The semi-private collaboration zone offers a multisensory experience that embraces daily and seasonal daylight cycles and panoramic views of the surrounding neighborhood, reinforcing the organization’s mission to enrich lives through content and experiences that engage, inform and inspire.

Program stacking and the vertical connectivity of media departments by the grand staircase

Exterior view of structure showing the vertical connectivity and grand staircase

Below grade offers the most considerable ceiling heights and is home to two TV studios, video and audio control rooms, master control, and edit suites. Talk radio, performance and production studios, and the newsroom find their home on the second floor. The third and fourth floors offer edit suites, workspaces, meeting areas, podcast recording areas, and a media learning lab accessible to community members.

The structure’s design utilizes sustainability principles in its commitment to its location, adjacency to transportation, reduced indoor water usage, energy efficiency, use of recycled and low emitting materials, indoor environmental air quality, a combination of energy-efficient lighting solutions enhanced with daylight and views, and acoustic performance to eliminate or reduce environmental noise and sound transmission between program spaces. To promote the sharing of the sustainable principles that informed the design, signage, and interactive elements throughout the building, teaching the occupants and guests about these systems.

Building within a building

In a television and radio broadcast facility like this, there are three main areas where acoustic performance is essential: sound isolation, room acoustics, and noise and vibration control. Working closely with Russ Berger Design Group (RBDG), an industry leader in acoustic design for recording studios and broadcast facilities, was vital to the building’s success.

The building’s critical spaces are designed to have “room-within-a-room” construction, in which each space’s floor, walls, and ceiling are isolated from the surrounding building construction. Each area has a secondary floating concrete slab supported by the structural slab with vibration isolation pads to keep noise from being transmitted to adjacent spaces. Interior walls for each room are independent of the exterior and adjoining rooms, isolating them from the structure above and below. Sound isolation ceilings complete the isolated enclosures and are either independently supported by the room’s walls or suspended from above using spring and rubber isolation hangers.

Community-oriented event space in the new WOSU Public Media's Headquarters

Performance Space and Editing Studio

TV Recording Studio

WOSU Server Room connecting throughout the building

Radio Studio

To control the behavior of sound within each of the critical spaces, custom acoustical treatments provide a balance of absorption, diffusion, and reflection. Fabric finishes are stretched in place, optimized for each room’s geometry. In rooms where critical audio judgments are made, acoustical diffusers help create a more uniform listening environment. The Performance Studio’s wood floor provides an aesthetic and acoustic surface that elicits the musicians’ best artistry.  

The mechanical systems that serve the broadcast spaces are remarkably quiet, so microphones can capture the subtle nuances of both news and music programs free from noise that could be distracting or interfere with intelligibility. Low-velocity airflow, oversized ducts, sound-attenuating liners, duct silencers, and anti-turbulence geometry all help ensure that fans and motors aren’t heard in the broadcast spaces. Isolation mounts on all equipment keep vibration from entering the building structure and traveling to the acoustically sensitive spaces.

A commitment to transparency and community

As one rises through the building, the honest interiors never lose sight of the local context and the WOSU brand. It ultimately showcases WOSU Public Media’s commitment to transparency and community transformation — all while epitomizing the concept of healthy, engaging work-life integration.

Of the completed project, Thomas Rieland, General Manager of WOSU Public Media (2002-2022), praised the work saying, “The public broadcast facility is one of the best and most flexible in the country. As we celebrate a century of broadcasting in central Ohio, I can tell you that this new WOSU home is the envy of our colleagues across Ohio and the country.”

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