Working at the mall here in Greensboro I can easily say I have had some very interesting dealings with sound and how sound fills that space as a whole. What sticks out the most in my mind is when they hire musical acts to perform down in the amphitheater.
Going back to a previous statement, I use the term amphitheater loosely, because it is something very far from one. The only thing they share is the shape, but when it comes to channeling sounds properly, it does nothing close to that.
When acts perform, much of the sound is channeled out throughout the entire mall. Since the floors are marble and the walls are just sheet rock and glass windows, much of the sounds reflect back in a horrible reverberation that echoes through the entire complex.
The steps that allow for seating of the musical acts are not much help either. They are hard and hollow and do nothing more but reflect the sounds back. The thin layer of carpet on them does nothing to absorb the sounds, and sadly enough, this carpet is just about the only fabric material that can be found in the main area of the mall.
It gets so loud in the mall on days people perform that I have actually heard of people leaving because they cannot deal with the loud noises anymore. I work at the Starbucks kiosk that is just above this amphitheater, so on those days it is almost impossible to take people’s orders or call out their drinks at a volume they can hear over the music and echoes.
This loud music effect only makes people throughout the mall to shout louder and this on top of the music only makes the entire space even more difficult to handle. I do not feel like this is a space made for this type of entertainment. If they feel the need of having live music, they are going to have to change the overall space in a huge way to make it work, and even then I believe it is going to be a stretch.
Acoustical panels need to be added to the walls that line the amphitheater, and even be placed throughout the shopping areas around the center area. Better and thicker seating in the theater could help as well, instead of hard hollow stairs that only have a thin layer or berber carpet on them.
More carpet needs to be added to limit the reverberation effect, but that will create its own issues as well. With so much heavy walking traffic in a shopping mall, carpet is not the most effective form of flooring. Personally, I think to cut out musical acts would be the easiest option to make the acoustics of this space manageable.
The mall and malls in general have classical been designed a certain way using specific materials that can withstand the heavy foot traffic they endure. These are the exact opposite materials that make for a pleasant acoustical space. I feel Four Seasons Mall needs to decide do they want to be a shopping space or a musical venue, but I am certain they cannot be both. The space would not fit the needs of the other for another.