Acoustic expert takes home award

02:41, Nov 28 2013
Sir Harold Marshall
HONOURED: Sir Harold Marshall, who worked on Christchurch Town Hall in 1972, was been awarded the Pickering Medal from the Royal Society.

The designer of Christchurch Town Hall's ground-breaking acoustics has been bestowed a further honour by the Royal Society of New Zealand.

Sir Harold Marshall worked with architects Warren & Mahoney on the design for the town hall in 1972. Last night he was awarded the Pickering Medal from the Royal Society, in recognition of his acoustics research.

Marshall developed techniques which allowed both clarity and reverberation to be optimised independently of each other. When he began his career, it was thought a space could be designed for clarity or reverberation, but not both.

Marshall's methods have influenced the design of multiple-use auditoriums, and are recognised as the preferred design for concert halls.

He has been involved in designing concert halls worldwide, including the Philharmonie de Paris which is due to be completed in 2014.

Marshall was formerly a professor of architecture at the University of Auckland, and in 2009 was knighted for services to acoustical science.


Two Canterbury researchers were also honoured by the Royal Society at the award ceremony in Dunedin.

University of Canterbury professors Dave Kelly and Andrew Buchanan were awarded the Hutton Medal and the R. J. Scott Medal respectively.

Kelly, an ecologist, has studied long-term mast seeding trends, where plants produce unusually large amounts of seed in some years.

His research is particularly significant this spring, with the country in the midst of a mass synchronised flowering event triggered by warm temperatures last summer.

The mass seeding event is expected to produce rat and stoat outbreaks in 2015. Such outbreaks can have devastating effects on native wildlife.

Kelly's research covers many other subjects, including the impact of bird declines on plant pollination and herbivore effects on native plants.

Engineering professor Andy Buchanan was recognised by the Royal Society for his work designing timber buildings that can withstand earthquakes. Buchanan's research focused on designing buildings that would ''give'' in an earthquake, avoiding permanent damage or deformation.

With many earthquake-damaged concrete and steel buildings too expensive to repair, Buchanan's research allows timber buildings to compete with concrete and steel multi-storey buildings.

Buchanan has also played a major role in developing the fire engineering programme at the University of Canterbury. In 2002 he was awarded a Queen's Service Medal.

The country's highest science honour, the Rutherford Medal, was awarded to Dame Anne Salmond for her anthropology research. Salmond was also awarded the New Zealander of the Year award in March.

The Press