Quietness, Comfortable Sound and Excellent Acoustics NAGATA ACOUSTICS

News 10-01 (No.265)

Issued : January 25, 2010

[ Japanese Version ]

The New "AYu:M" Shirataka-machi Cultural Exchange Center Opens

by Satoru Ikeda


In Shirataka-machi, a town located at the southern end of central Yamagata Prefecture, the new cultural exchange center named "AYu:M" opened in the autumn of 2009. Shirataka-machi is basin surrounded by the mountains of the same name and the Asahi Mountain Range. The Mogami River runs through the center of Shirataka-machi and the town enjoys beautiful natural vistas that extend outward from the town in all directions.

Shirataka-machi is located "off the beaten path" at a distance of 30-35 km (19-22 miles) from the population center of Yamagata City and about the same distance from the well-known tourist destination of Yonezawa City. From Tokyo, the visitor to Shirataka-machi starts the journey by traveling to Akayu Station on the Yamagata Shinkansen. Then, from Akayu to Shirataka-machi's Shikinosato Station, the traveler takes the Yamagata Railway's Flower Nagai Line, which winds its way in view of the Mogami River, for a relaxing and scenic train ride during the entire trip to Shirataka-machi. The new cultural exchange center can be accessed by a brief walk from Shikinosato Station.

The local planners of the new facility coined the name and word mark "AYu:M" (pronounced "ayu-mu") to represent the community's aspirations for the role the facility will play in the town's cultural life. This region is known for its "ayu" ("sweetfish") fishery by Yana ( a traditional fishing trap placing in the rapid natural fall of the Mogami River). Because the town hopes to enrich its cultural life by nurturing and building on its local cultural traditions, the cultural center's name includes "ayu" in the name and word mark. Also, the "u:M" part of the word mark hints at the Japanese words for "dream" (which is "yume" in Japanese) and "path" or "way" (using the Japanese word "ayumi", which literally means "footsteps"). With the completion and opening of the AYu:M Center, Shirataka-machi hopes to proceed along the way of realizing its dream to foster cultural and arts opportunities that bring together both residents of Shirataka-machi and people from other communities in the region.

<< Overview of AYu:M Cultural Exchange Center >>

AYu:M Cultural Exchange Center has three indoor zones plus an outdoor multipurpose plaza on lawn. The indoor zones include a zone for arts and crafts classes, workshops and lectures, a gallery zone for the display of paintings and other exhibits, and a zone with the center's hall. From the facility's main entrance, a wide corridor intended as an indoor "boulevard" for casual social interaction extends both to the right along one side of the arts and crafts zone to the entryway of the gallery zone and, to the left towards AYu:M Hall. The three zones form a perimeter that partially encloses the outdoor multipurpose plaza on lawn.

The firm of Toshio Homma & Associates developed the architectural design of the center and provided project management services for the project. The local construction company Nasu, Maruto and a joint venture team organized for the project built the facility.

<< The Arts and Crafts Zone and Gallery Zone >>

The arts and crafts zone was designed as one multipurpose space that can be divided into two or three separate rooms by setting up movable room partitions. This zone will be used to hold arts and crafts classes and workshops, as well as lectures and exhibits.

The gallery zone has two rooms. One room houses a permanent exhibition of oil paintings by the noted Japanese oil painter Goro Umezu, who was born in Shirataka-machi. The other gallery room will be available to the community on a rental basis for exhibiting the works of local artists.

The arts and crafts zone and the gallery zone can combine the wide boulevard-like corridor as a large gallery space. This flexible arrangement will enable people who hold events in the center to customize the size of the space they use and to stage and host larger-scale exhibitions.

<< AYu:M Hall >>

Audience seating area
Audience seating area

Stage view
Stage view

The four sidewalls of AYu:M Hall are of equal length, forming a square footprint. Of course, if a square is rotated 45 degrees, the square shape may be called a "diamond shape" (as in the case of a baseball diamond). For "AYu:M" Hall, we effectively designed the room configuration as a diamond shape. The stage is located in front of one of the hall's corners, and the backstage area is in the triangular space behind the stage's rear wall.

AYu:M Hall has an open stage and movable wood seating that accommodates an audience of up to 200 people. The two walls towards the rear of the hall's diamond shape face onto the lawns of the multipurpose outdoor plaza and are made of glass doors that open using a mechanism that is a combination of a sliding and folding door. The glass doors can be fully opened to enable the hall to be used together with the outdoor plaza as one contiguous space.

With its two walls of glass doors, AYu:M Hall's interior offers a feeling of light-filled openness. Of course, not all events want to have the sounds of the outside world and abundant natural light come streaming through the glass doors. We specified double-paned glass for the walls' glass doors to mitigate the transfer of external noise into the hall and installed light-blocking curtains that can be opened across the glass walls to darken the hall.

In designing the room acoustics of AYu:M Hall, we gave first priority to use of the venue for non-amplified music performances. The hall's interior makes abundant use of wood finishes and the single, flat floor configuration of the hall creates a feeling of connectedness between the stage and the audience seating area. In addition, a cross-section view of the hall would reveal other room design features that make this hall special. Specifically, the high ceiling rises above the hall's four walls in the shape of an eight-sided pyramid crowned with a dome center. This ceiling design imbues the hall with rich room acoustics. We also installed sound-absorbing curtains on the two rear walls of AYu:M Hall so that the reverberation time of the hall can be adjusted to the needs of the event or performance.

<< AYu:M Hall Fills an Unexpected Urgent Need and Shines at Its Opening >>

Shortly before the planned opening of the new cultural exchange center and AYu:M Hall, concerns over asbestos in a portion of the ceiling materials of Shirataka-machi's existing Chuo Civic Auditorium led to the auditorium's sudden closure. Events that had been scheduled for the civic auditorium needed a new venue and AYu:M Hall opened ahead of the rest of the cultural exchange center in order to accommodate this need.

After the unanticipated pre-opening events, the planned opening performances took place on October 4, 2009 as part of the town's commemoration of its 55th year of incorporation. One aim of our acoustical design for AYu:M Hall was to compensate for the civic auditorium's lack of appropriateness as a venue for music performances. For AYu:M Hall's formal opening, the audience was treated to an oboe and guitar duet by professional musicians Ken-ichi Furube and Daisuke Suzuki. The acoustics of the hall sounded wonderful and well suited to the chamber music performed.

After the opening concert, I was pleased to receive compliments on the hall's acoustics. Of course, I remain aware of the center's need to use the hall for a range of event types, a need that we incorporated in our acoustic design. This is a modest center with a modest-sized hall. Nevertheless, even in the first three months of operation, the hall's schedule included multiple concerts, showing the positive results of untiring efforts by the center's Education Committee to bring to the hall programming that will attract local residents as well as keep the center's calendar filled. I hope that the residents of Shirataka-machi will continue to enjoy this level of robust cultural programming in their new AYu:M Center for many months and years to come.

The center's website address is http://ayu-m.jp

A ground-breaking ceremony for Radio France's new concert hall in headquarter renovation

by Marc Quiquerez

On December 16th 2009, in Paris, a ground-breaking ceremony was held for the refurbishment of the Maison de la Radio, headquarter of Radio France, the French Radio broadcasting company. For the occasion, a sample of the future glass fa?ade has been installed by the French Minister of Culture, Mr. Fr?d?ric Mitterrand, and the Chief Executive Officer of Radio France, Mr. Jean-Luc Hess.

The renovation will involve up to 200 companies and affect a surface area of more than 100,000 square meters. Construction work, which started last June, will last about 80 months, and is expected to be completed in January 2016, with the entire refurbishment of all facilities. Additionally, as reported in a previous issue of this newsletter (March 2006 "News & Opinions), the refurbishment of the 46 year-old so-called "Maison Ronde" (meaning "Round House") will incorporate the creation of an entirely new 1500-seat auditorium dedicated to classical music, which will become the residence of Radio France's four music ensembles (Orchestre National de France, Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France, Choeur and Maitrise de Radio France)

Under the responsibility of the Paris architectural firm Architecture Studio, the design started in 2005 and Nagata Acoustics was given responsibility for the room acoustical design of the auditorium. Schematic design and design development phases were followed by the building and testing of a 1:10 acoustical scale model between October 2006 and February 2007 (See our February, 2007 "News & Opinions" for an article about Radio France's auditorium scale model). The design of the auditorium's organ was recently awarded to Gerhard GRENZING, and a new design phase is currently on-going to incorporate the instrument in the future auditorium.

The construction of the new concert hall is due to start in April-May 2011, and will last 24 months, for an opening to the public with the musical season in late 2013.

Comparing the Acoustics of Different Ceiling Heights
The Acoustical Society of Japan's Musical Acoustics and Architectural Acoustics Technical Committees Meeting

by Chiaki Ishiwata

The Technical Meeting session demonstrated these four ceiling configurations. Tokyo University of the Arts currently uses each configuration for the genres noted in the parentheses.
The Technical Meeting session demonstrated
these four ceiling configurations. Tokyo University
of the Arts currently uses each configuration
for the genres noted in the parentheses.

The Acoustical Society of Japan holds biannual meetings in the spring and autumn. In addition, the society's technical committees meet periodically, mostly on a monthly basis. In November, 2009, the Musical Acoustics and Architectural Acoustics technical committees held a joint meeting on the topic of "Music and Architectural Spaces".

After a morning program dedicated to the presentation of technical papers, the afternoon portion of the meeting featured a special experiential session at Tokyo University of the Arts' Sogakudo Concert Hall. The afternoon session, entitled "Music Performances and Room Acoustics: How Sogakudo Concert Hall Uses its Movable Ceiling" included the opportunity to hear live music performed in this hall.

<< Sogakudo Concert Hall's Movable Ceiling >>

Sogakudo Concert Hall opened in April, 1998. (A discussion of Nagata Acoustics participation on the project appears in our June, 1998 Japanese-language newsletter.) Students at Tokyo University of the Arts (formerly, Tokyo National University of Fine Arts & Music) students major in many different performing arts genres, including traditional Japanese music, vocal music, instrumental music and pipe organ music. A goal of Sogakudo Concert Hall was to accommodate all of these genres and performance types of acoustical needs, both when used as a venue for classes and for performances.

To meet the objectives set for Sogakudo Concert Hall, Nagata Acoustics developed a novel room acoustical design for the hall's ceiling that divides it into three sections, plus the ceiling section over the stage, and enables the height of each ceiling section to be separately raised or lowered so that it can be adjusted based on the needs of the instruments and other details of a performance. Changing the ceiling height of a hall can change the delay time of sound reflections to the musicians on stage, the audience, or both, and can also change the distribution of the hall's early sound reflections. Also, because the length of a room's reverberation is proportional to the spatial volume of the room, raising or lowering sections of the ceiling changes the room's spatial volume and, consequently, affects the room's reverberation time as well.

At Sogakudo Concert Hall, the ceiling configuration used depends on the content of the performance. The process of determining the optimal settings for specific genres and performance types has been achieved through trial and error during the more than 10 years that the hall has been in use.

<< Impressions of the Performances at the Technical Committee Meeting >>

Performers' roundtable discussion
Performers' roundtable discussion

During the afternoon session of the Technical Committee Meeting, the hall was reconfigured to each of the four settings shown in the diagram and the meeting attendees listened to brief performances by a woodwind duet (oboe and clarinet), a violinist, a tenor vocalist and a koto musician. Following the performances, the performers participated in a roundtable discussion about their impressions of performing in the hall.

I will limit my comments about the configurations to my own individual impressions from attending this session of the meeting. In addition, I wish to keep in mind the limited number of audience and the other conditions of this performance. While each configuration of the hall certainly had acoustical differences, each performance drew my attention to different aspects of the acoustics and I would be hard pressed to definitively choose a preferred configuration preference based solely on the instrument being played. Instead, I found that the composition being played greatly affected my opinion of how each ceiling configuration sounded.

During the roundtable discussion, the performers made comments that also revealed an assortment of impressions. For example, the woodwind duet, both members of a professional orchestra, spoke about being conscious of the performance space, saying that if they had more time to rehearse, they could adapt their performance to the room's acoustics. However, the koto player said that, when performing, she needs to distinguish between the direct sounds from her koto and reflected sounds. When the hall does not produce sound reflections, she can hear the direct sounds from her koto without interference and it is easier for her to play.

Because few concert halls have ceilings with the range of configuration possible at Sogakudo Concert Hall and the Acoustical Society's technical meeting offered an equally rare opportunity to listen to different performers and performance genres, the session attracted 125 meeting participants. In addition to the listening experience in the hall, I found it fascinating to learn about the hall's implementation and optimization of various ceiling configurations across more than 10 years and I was pleased to know that the university benefits from the acoustical flexibility built into the ceiling design that Nagata Acoustics devised for Sogakudo Hall.

Theatre Consultant Masaji Ito Gives Informal Talk at Nagata Acoustics

by Dr Keiji Oguchi

Mr. Masaji Ito
Mr. Masaji Ito

This past December 7, Nagata Acoustics set aside several hours to welcome Masaji Ito to our main office and hear him speak about theatre space planning and operations. We followed his presentation with an informal gathering and sharing of ideas.

Mr. Ito earned his undergraduate and graduate degrees from Waseda University's Department of Architecture. As a graduate student, he specialized in the architecture of theatres and public facilities. While still a graduate student, he participated in the planning for the New National Theatre, Tokyo. After that, Mr. Ito established Theatre Workshop, a company that has pioneered the profession of theatre consulting in Japan. Today, Mr. Ito serves as the company's president and representative director.

Theatre Workshop's original scope of services included providing advice on framework of facility, and designs for stage machinery, lighting and other physical and mechanical aspects of theatre and hall projects. In time, the company expanded its consulting services to include establishment of theatres' concept at planning, and theatres' post-construction operational and management needs. In 1997, Theatre Workshop established an affiliated company named Theatre Support, which specializes in event production services and theatre and hall planning, maintenance and operations work. Nagata Acoustics has teamed with Theatre Workshops on many projects throughout Japan.

<< Japan Architectural Institute's Recognition of Mr. Ito's Work >>

In 2008, Mr. Ito won the Japan Architectural Institute's Specific Contributions Division Award. The award credited Mr. Ito with establishing theatre consulting as a professional occupation in Japan and recognized his series of works for theatre and hall projects. There are little-used publicly funded theatres and halls in Japan because of the lack of discussion on the programming at the planning stage. (being criticized this situation as "Hakomono (empty box)" - rarely used facility) To make theatres and halls with festivity, Mr. Ito brings a unique approach to his participation in publicly funded theatre and hall projects. Mr. Ito solicits community residents to join with him in multiple public workshops where he collaborates with the community to put together the programming for the community's new facility.

Examples of projects that used Mr. Ito's workshop approach include Kitakami City Cultural Exchange Center (featured in our March, 2004 newsletter) and Chino City Cultural Complex (featured in our November, 2005 newsletter). Since their openings, both of these facilities have enjoyed the support of their local communities and successful operations.

<< Highlights of Mr. Ito's Talk at Nagata Acoustics >>

For his talk at Nagata Acoustics, Mr. Ito used a PowerPoint presentation he prepared for his acceptance speech at the Japan Architectural Institute's award ceremony. His talk began with biographical information about his childhood years and, especially, his attendance at Seijo Gakuen, a school with a unique curriculum. In addition to studying the standard subjects of grammar and writing, math, science and social studies, Seijo Gakuen students also did official "coursework" in "taking a walk", "playing" and "drama". Mr. Ito attended the Seijo Gakuen drama class, where the students wrote, produced and acted in their own plays. The academic objective of the curriculum was that the students learn how to express themselves by experiencing the entire creative process. Mr. Ito told us that the enjoyment he felt when creating a play for this class led to his later decision to study theatre spaces and eventually to his choosing of theatre consulting and production as his lifelong profession.

Mr. Ito continued his talk with the story of the founding of his company, Theatre Workshop. He traced how the company's services have diversified to include establishment of theatres' and halls' concept at planning stage and post-construction operational and production aspects of theatre management, and he shared an overview of the company's past projects.

In connection with his planning work for theatres and halls, Mr. Ito says he always searches for the answer to the question, "Why do we need this theatre (or hall)?" And, he always thinks about the ingredients that will lead to an excellent answer to this question. At the end of his talk, Mr. Ito suggested one ingredient he has discovered. He said that a theatre must do more than be a place where community residents feel inspired as audiences. It must also provide a space where they can create inspiring performances as the performers.

Mr. Ito's work creates spaces that are not simply "boxes", but rather theatres and halls that exude a sense of festivity. I wish him much ongoing and future success in his work both as Japan's premier theatre consultant and as a provider of hall operations and production services.

Nagata Acoustics Inc.

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

(LA Office)
2130 Sawtelle Blvd., Suite 307A
Los Angeles, CA 90025, U.S.A.
Tel: +1-310-231-7818, Fax: +1-310-231-7816

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75, avenue Parmentier
75011 Paris, France
Tel: +33 (0)1 40 21 44 25, Fax: +33 (0)1 40 21 24 00

E-mail: info@nagata.co.jp

[ Japanese Version ]