Quietness, Comfortable Sound and Excellent Acoustics NAGATA ACOUSTICS


News 08-02 (No.242)

Issued : February 25, 2008

[ Japanese Version ]

Hita City's "Patria" Cultural Center Opens in Oita Prefecture

by Toshiko Fukuchi

Exterior of Patria Hita
Exterior of Patria Hita

Oita Prefecture's western border is flanked by Fukuoka Prefecture towards the north and Kumamoto Prefecture to the south. Near the place where these three prefectures' borders meet, Hita City sits on river-basin land formed by the Mikuma River offshoot of the Chikugo River. During Japan's Edo Period, Hita City flourished under the direct ownership of the Tokugawa Shoguns (demesne lands) and, even now, the Mameta area at the city's center retains the look of pre-modern Japan, its streets lined with the same architecture of prosperous merchant residences and storefronts that existed in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. The city is a favorite tourist destination and the many nearby hot spring resorts add to the region's appeal.

In this city with many traditional attractions, a new cultural center named Patria Hita held its opening ceremonies on December 23, 2007. Patria Hita replaces a 44-year-old civic auditorium that was dear to the hearts of many local residents with a new, full-scale cultural center that houses a 1,003-seat Large Hall, a 351-seat Small Hall, four studios, a gallery, workshop room and a variety of support spaces.

The Patria Hita project selected its architect, Kohyama-Atelier, through a proposal process. A joint venture of Kajima Corporation, Shinsei-kensetsu Co., Ltd. and Eto Kensetsu KK served as the project's general contractor. Nagata Acoustics participated as the Acoustical Consultant to the project, with Dr. Kiyoteru Ishii, Professor Emeritus of Tokyo University, as Advisor. We developed the room acoustical designs and equipment noise control designs during the project's design phase, managing the acoustical aspects of the construction phase and performing post-completion acoustical measurements and evaluations.

<< Architectural Highlights of Patria Hita Cultural Center >>

Interior of the Large Hall
Interior of the Large Hall

Patria Hita occupies a block of land in the shopping district that extends outward from the Japan Railway's Hita Station. The new cultural center is situated on the site so that it faces the old civic auditorium, which the city plans to demolish later this year. Because the new cultural center building has a large size and scale, the architect thoughtfully chose materials and a color palette for the building exterior that, when glimpsed between shops that line the narrow streets, blend harmoniously with the shopping district's modest shops. Also, in the evening, lights located at the four corners of the stage's flytower create a warm and welcoming image reminiscent of the andon paper lanterns used in Japan centuries ago.

The layout of the cultural center's interior has two wings, one for the Large Hall and one for the Small Hall, studios and other rooms, with a walkway-ringed atrium between them. Even first time visitors easily find their destination in this user-friendly, intuitive layout.

The Large Hall has windows at the top portions of the sidewalls, an unusual feature for this kind of hall. Natural light shines into the hall during the daytime, making artificial lighting superfluous. Of course, the hall has blackout curtains to cover the windows for theater matinees and other daytime performances that require a darkened hall. Additionally, both the Large and Small halls have glass windows at the entrances to their audience seating areas from the cultural center's foyer and atrium, an architectural design that creates a strong sense of continuum between the building's interior and exterior spaces.

Like the Yoshino countryside in central Japan and Akita Prefecture in the north, Hita City is well known in Japan as a source of Japanese cedar. This material, together with tiles crafted of Hita City's distinctive Onda pottery figure prominently in the interiors of the Large and Small halls and throughout the cultural center.

Hita City residents chose the "Patria" name for the new cultural center. This Italian word means both "homeland" and "birthplace." To the people of Hita City, the cultural center's name represents their desire that the local community will feel relaxed and "at home" when they spend time at the center and that the center will nurture a flowering of cultural activity.

<< Sound Isolation Design Using Expansion Joints >>

For the community to use all of the cultural center's facilities most completely, we set as our sound isolation design objective the ability to simultaneously use both halls, the studios and the other rooms without regard to the sound volumes being generated inside them. To achieve our goal, we specified acoustical expansion joints between the building structure of the Large and Small halls, as well as between the structure of the Small Hall and the studios. We also specified an anti-vibration structural design for the studios. As a result, the sound isolation is effective in each space for sounds up to 80 dB and above (measured at 500 Hz). With the possible exception of a situation that produces extraordinarily loud sound, the sound isolation performance levels ensure that events and activities can be held simultaneously in the halls, studios and other rooms.

In an interesting nexus of visual and acoustical design, the expansion joints that we specified for sound isolation purposes have been left exposed to view as a visual design element that can be seen from the second floor walkways that ring the central atrium. The expansion joints bridge an airy opening that separates the Small Hall's wall that faces the studios from the studios' wall that faces the Small Hall, so that the visual appearance the eye sees gives a sense of the sound isolation the design achieves.

<< Distinctive Cedar Diffusion Elements in the "Yamabiko" Large Hall >>

Sound-diffusing Surfaces of the Large Hall  Sound-diffusing Surfaces of the Large Hall
Sound-diffusing Surfaces of the Large Hall

In keeping with the project's programming, we designed the Large Hall, named "Yamabiko" ("Mountain Echo") to be a multipurpose hall appropriate to a wide variety of theater, classical music performances, popular music concerts, ceremonies and other events. The interior design of the hall makes abundant use of local materials and traditional Japanese building techniques, including sidewalls of Japanese cedar along the audience seating area, stucco finishing of surfaces, an exposed, gabled ceiling and seats with Japanese-cedar backs, seats and brackets.

From the acoustical perspective, a particularly efficacious use of the Japanese cedar is the lower portions of the hall's sidewalls, which are constructed of Japanese cedar cut into various sizes of rectangular lumber and then fashioned into the sidewalls. These sidewalls' surfaces "season" the hall with the kind of sound-diffusing surfaces that contribute significantly to achieving fine hall acoustics. We also took advantage of the naturally rough surfaces of Japanese cedar and stucco, in other parts of the hall, to effectively maximize the hall's sound-diffusing elements.

The use of glass panes at the top of the audience area's sidewalls necessitated particular attention to isolating the hall from external noises. For this sound isolation strategy, we designed a spacious, sound absorbing space between glasses.

Yamabiko Hall has stage reflection panels that can be deployed and retracted. With the panels deployed, the hall's reverberation time measures 1.9 seconds (with the room unoccupied) and 1.6 seconds (with the room fully occupied).

<< The Small Hall and Its Onda Pottery Walls >>

Interior of the Small Hall  Sound-diffusing Surfaces of the Small Hall
Interior and Sound-diffusing Surfaces of the Small Hall

The Small Hall is a flat-floored space with movable chairs that can be set up or removed as needed. The size of this hall makes it especially appropriate for activities of local residents and clubs and, given the expectation that these patrons will be the most frequent users of this space, we designed this hall as a multipurpose hall. However, because this hall's ceiling height measures 11 m. (39 ft) above the audience seating area, which is a high ceiling relative to the size of the room, when the stage sound reflection panels are set in place, this hall provides a fine venue for the performance of classical music.

The interior of the Small Hall has a Japanese-style appearance. As for the sidewalls of the audience seating area, the lower portions are covered with Onda pottery tiles and the upper portions have wood paneling. In order to prevent the possibility of flutter echoes, the Onda pottery tiles are attached to the walls using an inverted-clapboard design. When the sound reflection panels are deployed, the Small Hall's reverberation time measures 1.4 seconds (with the room unoccupied) and 1.3 seconds (with the room fully occupied).

<< Visiting Hita City to Attend an Inaugural Concert >>

As part of the hall's inaugural season, the hall held a concert on Sunday, January 20, 2008, featuring Mr. Akiyoshi Sako on the piano and conducting the Kyushu Symphony Orchestra. Mr. Sako's performance engagements in Hita City date back to even before the Patria Hita Cultural Center project began construction and his connection with the city apparently played a role in bringing this concert to fruition. Mr. Sako and the Kyushu Symphony Orchestra played to a full house that was infused with the sense of community accomplishment and the hopes and expectations for how this international-award-winning musician and professional orchestra would sound in the new hall.

From Fukuoka Airport, Hita City can be reached by a bus ride lasting slightly more than one hour. Hita City offers visitors an annual calendar of festivals, starting with the Hina Doll Festival, held in the spring in Mameta area. The summer brings Ukai fishing with leashed cormorants and the Gion Festival. In the autumn, Hita City holds the Tenryo Festival, in which residents don Edo Period dress and parade through Mameta area. Many hot spring locations dot the areas near Hita City and the region is also famous for its tasty water. Not far from the city limits, Sapporo Beer operates a brewery. There is plenty to do, see and now concerts to hear and plays to enjoy. Hita City has long been an excellent travel destination choice and Patria Hita makes it all the more worth recommending to visitors from both far and near.

A Gala Ground-breaking Event in Miami for New World Symphony's New Hall

by Dr. Yasuhisa Toyota

Exterior View (Model by Gehry Partners)
Exterior View
(Model by Gehry Partners)

On the evening of January 23, 2008, in downtown Miami Beach, an audience of invitation-only guests attended the ground-breaking ceremony for construction of the New World Symphony Orchestra's new hall. The construction phase of this project will last about 2.5 years. The new hall's projected opening date is in 2011.

<< The Unique Mission of the New World Symphony >>

The New World Symphony (http://www.nws.edu) was established in 1987 under the artistic direction of Michael Tilson Thomas. This orchestra prepares young musicians through a range of educational programs. Its mission makes it a truly unique organization among the world's ensembles. The gifted, young music university and conservatory graduates who are accepted into the New World Symphony join the orchestra for the limited period of three years, during which they pursue intensive and diverse educational and performance opportunities. After their three years with the orchestra, the musicians leave the orchestra and pursue their profession in many venues around the world.

Around the year of 1987, the late Leonard Bernstein was planning to found the Pacific Music Festival in Asia-Pacific region, and it was established in Sapporo, Japan in 1990. The PMF is also dedicated to educating and training gifted young musicians and its establishment came at nearly the same time as that of the New World Symphony. After the first PMF season in 1990, Artistic Director Bernstein passed away suddenly, and Mr. Tilson Thomas assumed the Artistic Director responsibilities for the festival, continuing this work for 10 years. At that time, we could already see the incredible energy and passion that Mr. Tilson Thomas puts into music education, and especially into the training of the next generation's orchestral musicians.

<< Funding a Project That Grew from US$30 Million to US$200 Million >>

Nagata Acoustics' participation on the New World Symphony's new hall project began in 2002. Two of our other projects, the Art Hall in Sapporo Art Park ("Geijutstu no Mori"), completed in 1995, and Sapporo Concert Hall, completed in 1997, are the Pacific Music Festival's main venues, and because Mr. Tilson Thomas was extremely pleased with these halls, he involved us in the New World Symphony project. As initially conceived, the project was to have a budget in the range of US$30 - 40 million. In 2003, the project sponsors chose Frank Gehry as the project's architect and as the architectural design work progressed, the budget also grew at a rapid pace. Eventually, the project's budget reached US$200 million, including an allocation to fund an endowment for the new hall's operating costs.

In the United States, the planners of construction projects that will benefit the arts and the community often look to private philanthropy to donate the monies that fund the projects and this is the approach the New World Symphony took. After Mr. Gehry was named as the project architect and the New World Symphony's marketing campaign effectively promoted news of his selection, both donors' pledges and the scale of the project increased significantly. This kind of philanthropic drive exemplifies a hallmark of American culture unthinkable in Japan.

<< Unique Needs and Features of the New Hall >>

The project programming for the new hall reflects the unique mission of the New World Symphony and distinguishes the new hall from other, typical concert halls. Instead of focusing on the ultimate performances in front of audiences, this hall gives higher priority to the orchestra's use of the hall for rehearsals. In addition, the New World Symphony's broadly inclusive and dynamically evolving modern as well as traditional classical music repertoires, its use of a variety of standard and non-standard ensemble configurations and the educational programs' innovative forays into a wide range of experimental and contemporary music all contributed to the need for a hall design unconfined by traditional concert hall assumptions and incorporating experimental spatial aspects and functionalities. The key unique features of the hall's acoustical room design are:

  1. The stage can hold an orchestra with up to three wind sections in a small-scale hall of 700 - 800 seats.
  2. The audience seating surrounds the orchestra in an arena configuration.
  3. Both the stage and the first floor seating can be raised and lowered, enabling great flexibility in the hall's layout, including the ability to arrange the height of the stage and the first floor seating to create a large, flat floor.
  4. In addition to the main stage, three small stages placed amidst the audience seating provide the ability to stage simultaneous and consecutive solo and small ensemble performances.
  5. Large, white sidewall surfaces entirely surround the hall above the stage and blocks of audience seating, creating "canvases" for lighting and other projected visual productions.

Hall Interior View (Model by Gehry Partners)
Hall Interior View
(Model by Gehry Partners)

At the start of the planning phase for this project, the scope included only a new main hall. The project organizers intended to continue to use the current location, Lincoln Theater, for the rehearsal, classroom and ensemble facilities needed by the orchestra's extensive educational programs. When the project budget increased, these facilities and even administrative office space and instrument storage space became added to the project scope of the new building that will house the hall. Including the main hall, the project now counts in scope more than 30 large and small rooms for ensemble use, plus all of the support rooms needed to run the orchestra's operations, and has become a large project with a total of 95,000 sq. ft of floor space.

<< Pioneering the Use of Internet2 for Near-real-time Audio-visual Exchange >>

Another noteworthy feature of the New World Symphony's activities is its pioneering adoption of Internet technologies to bring near-real-time audio-visual connectivity to its Miami Beach location. For example, the orchestra has already successfully held master classes taught by musicians located far from Miami who teach the students across extremely fast broadband connections.

The Internet technology harnessed by the New World Symphony is named Internet2, an advanced, next-generation networking technology that provides faster speeds than generally available Internet connections currently offer. Internet2's faster speeds provide a networking environment capable of the near-real-time audio-visual exchange necessary for musicians located in different locations to be able to play together simultaneously. Educational events and musical collaborations that only yesterday would have seemed like an impossible dream have already become reality in Miami. Internet2 connectivity will of course be built into many of the spaces of the new hall building, including the main hall and the other ensemble rooms.

<< The Nighttime Ground-breaking Ceremony >>

Ground-breaking Ceremony
Ground-breaking Ceremony

The hall's ground-breaking ceremony gathered several hundred invited guests to the project site. The audience was composed mostly of major donors and prospective major donors to the project. The ceremony commenced in the early evening with several bulldozers moving through the site accompanied by a fireworks display that added a touch of the spectacular to the event.

Evening ground-breaking ceremonies are virtually unheard of in the United States. Compared with a morning or afternoon ceremony, the evening time frame undoubtedly made it easier for many of the invitees to attend the event. Mr. Tilson Thomas wanted to ensure that every invited person associated with the project could attend the ground-breaking ceremony. Under his strong and persuasive direction, the ground-breaking event "played" to a full audience and completed this milestone exactly as he envisioned it.


Nagata Acoustics Inc.
Hongo Segawa Bldg. 3F, 2-35-10
Hongo, Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo 113-0033 Japan
Tel: +81-3-5800-2671, Fax: +81-3-5800-2672

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2130 Sawtelle Blvd., Suite 307A,
Los Angeles, CA 90025, U.S.A.
Telephone: (310) 231-7818
Fax: (310) 231-7816

E-mail: info@nagata.co.jp

[ Japanese Version ]