Quietness, Comfortable Sound and Excellent Acoustics NAGATA ACOUSTICS

News 12-03 (No.291)

Issued : March 25, 2012

[ Japanese Version ]

The Renzo Piano-designed New Wing of Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston

By Motoo Komoda

The Renzo Piano-designed wing of Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum
The Renzo Piano-designed wing of
Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

The Boston Museum of Fine Arts may be the dominant museum many people associate with the U.S. city of Boston, Massachusetts, but the nearby Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum also deserves high acclaim. I must confess that until I began work on "the Gardner", I knew almost nothing about this museum except that if I mentioned the name to my American friends, some of them would passionately reply, "Oh, I love that museum!"

<< History and Highlights of the Gardner Museum >>

Isabella Stewart Gardner, one of the only female arts patrons at the turn of the 20th century, conceived the vision for the Gardner and brought this historic museum into being in 1903, with the public opening taking place on New Year's Day of that year. Visitors to the Gardner are often particularly drawn to the landscaped garden of plants, sculpture and architectural detail in the interior courtyard, which is both protected and lit by a large glass skylight. The original building has three floors and visitors find here both serenity and visual splendor while browsing through the historic building and its collections.

The Gardner houses a world-class art collection and also sponsors concerts, lectures and other events in keeping with Isabella Stewart Gardner's vision of a museum "for the education and enrichment of the public forever". Beginning in 2012, the Gardner's activities also includes the biennial Maeder-York museum fellowship in landscape studies. In 1990, the Gardner made news headlines when thieves stole 13 valuable works of art, including Vermeer and Rembrandt paintings. In cooperation with the FBI and the U.S. Attorney's Office, an investigation into the theft continues with a focus on recovery of these precious works of art.

<< The Renzo Piano-designed New Wing and Calderwood Performance Hall >>

In 2002, in keeping with the vision and endowment of the museum's founder, the museum embarked on a project to add a new wing to relieve the pressure of more than 200,000 annual visitors on the original museum building. In 2004, the museum named Renzo Piano to be the new wing's architect. The new wing includes space for the exhibition and fostering of contemporary art and landscape gardens as well as a performance hall, expanded amenities such as a café, a greenhouse for plants and apartments for the use of artists in residence. The overall budget for the project was in the range of $114 million. Nagata Acoustics served as the acoustical consultant for Calderwood Performance Hall.

Interior of Calderwood Performance Hall - Main Floor View
Interior of Calderwood Performance Hall
Main Floor View

The new performance hall seats an audience of almost 300 persons and is designed primarily for the performance of classical music. The hall has a square-shaped stage surrounded on all four sides by audience seating. Just as the original museum's interior courtyard has a skylight high above it in the third floor's roof, so the new performance hall's architectural design includes a skylight in its high ceiling. The skylight brings natural light into the performance hall.

The performance hall has a nearly cube-shaped spatial configuration. At stage level, only two rows of seating surround the stage. On the three balcony levels, the four sides of the perimeter have just one row of seating on each side. At stage level, the stage and the audience are at the same eye level, so that the audience sits and listens to performances in extreme proximity to the performers. The single row of balcony seats in the three balcony tiers effectively turns these seats into box seats where patrons can freely lean forward on the handrail or otherwise position themselves at ease without impacting the experience of other members of the audience. Also, compared with standard concert hall per-seat spatial volumes, each audience seat has slightly more generous space than the norm.

Overall, every seat in the hall provides a luxurious, VIP experience. At the same time, because the audience members face each other at rather close distance, the hall feels less like a concert venue and somewhat more like a small theatre for social events where the theatre design has been pursued to an almost radical extreme. The glass surface on the ceiling and the glass detail of the hall's handrails add to the uniqueness of this concert hall's design.

<< Calderwood Performance Hall Opening Concerts >>

Interior of Calderwood Performance Hall - Balcony View Includes Audience
Interior of Calderwood Performance Hall
Balcony View Includes Audience

Calderwood Performance Hall and the Museum officially opened to the public on Wednesday, January 18, 2012 after a weekend of opening concerts to begin the hall's inaugural concert season. I had the pleasure of attending the four nights of incredible concerts starring some of the world's most well-known musical artists, such as Kiri Te Kanawa and Yo-Yo Ma. Performing ensembles included Borromeo String Quartet and Jupiter String Quartet. In addition, the young, dazzling pianists Jeremy Denk and Paavali Jumppanen performed as did A Far Cry, the museum's Chamber Orchestra in Residence.

<< Additional Information >>

The museum captured the progress of the Renzo Piano-designed new wing project in photos, videos and words and shares them at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum: Building on a Legacy website.

The inaugural events followed close on the heels of the project's completion and we decided to postpone acoustical measuring in the hall until after the inaugural celebrations. Just prior to publishing this newsletter, we completed the post-project acoustical measuring activities. At a future opportunity, I will write about the hall's acoustics and the measurement results.

Kumamoto City Medical Association's New Physician Building and Nurses' Training School

By Toshiko Fukuchi

The ribbed west wall of the auditorium
The ribbed west wall of the auditorium

This article discusses the new Physician Building and Nurses' Training School of Kumamoto City Medical Association. The physicians' building and the nursing school relocated from old facilities to the newly built building on a site conveniently close to Kumamoto University Hospital. The project, which completed in March, 2011, was designed by a joint venture awarded after a proposal process to Waseda University Professor Nobuaki Furuya and his STUDIO NASCA office together with the local, Kumamoto firm of Nakagawa Architect Office. Matsuo Corporation served as the general contractor.

The new building has five floors. The first and second floors are dedicated to spaces used by physicians and the fourth and fifth floors have classrooms and ancillary rooms for the nursing school. The third floor is shared by both physicians and the nursing school. In particular, the second floor has a flat-floored auditorium with collapsible seating. The auditorium seats up to 450 persons.

<< The Auditorium >>

Consistent with the building's overall use a physicians' facility, the auditorium's programming defined lectures as the main intended use. In keeping with this purpose, we made clarity of speech the highest priority objective of our room acoustical design. The wall on the east side of the room (stage right) has an architectural design that includes sections of wall-to-ceiling glass windows. For the opposing west wall (stage left), we specified the installation of a random pattern of ribbing. In addition, at the ceiling from the stage to the rear of the audience seating area we installed curved cedar slats, again using a random pattern.

The random patterns of ribbing and slats figure significantly in our acoustical design. By discussing and negotiating with the architectural team these acoustically important elements became incorporated into the architects' interior design of the room. In a number of locations behind the ribbing and above the slats, we placed sound absorbing material to control reverberation in the auditorium.

<< The New Building's Inviting Atmosphere >>

Typically, the name "physicians' building" conjures up the image of a facility designed in a no-frills, utilitarian style, but the Kumamoto building greets visitors with a broad external entrance on the side of the building that fronts the street and a light pink colored exterior wall on the side of the building that faces the parking structure built on the same site. These soft touches in the architectural design give the building a welcoming and accessible feeling.

The interior of the building also has details that add softness to the overall atmosphere. In particular, on the floor dedicated to the nursing school, instead of having the various rooms arranged in a standard layout of two rows of rooms with a corridor between them, the layout includes a number of open sitting areas with chairs where students can relax and converse.

The new auditorium's desirably practical size, clear acoustics and proximity to Kumamoto University Hospital will surely make it a popular venue for lectures and other speaking engagements.

Acoustical Design Legacies and Lessons of Older and Bygone Halls - Part 2

--Yamaha Hall's "Copenhagen Ribbing" Reexamined--

By Dr. Minoru Nagata, Founder of Nagata Acoustics

Fig. 1: Glass curtain wall of Nippon Gakki Building (courtesy of Nobuo Sato)
Fig. 1: Glass curtain wall of Nippon Gakki Building
(courtesy of Nobuo Sato)

Fig. 2: Yamaha Hall interior (courtesy of Nobuo Sato)
Fig. 2: Yamaha Hall interior
(courtesy of Nobuo Sato)

Fig. 3: Cross section view of Yamaha Hall*
Fig. 3: Cross section view of Yamaha Hall*

Fig.4a Kamakura Yukinoshita Church side wall
Fig.4a: Kamakura Yukinoshita Church side wall

Fig.4b cross section illustration of Copenhagen ribbing**
Fig.4b: Cross section illustration of Copenhagen ribbing**

Fig. 5: Measured Yamaha Hall reverberation times*
Fig. 5: Measured Yamaha Hall reverberation times*

Yamaha Hall came into being in the mid-1950s, just as Japan was poised to begin its recovery from the defeat of World War II. Modest in size, the hall completed and opened in 1958 on the top floor of Nippon Gakki Building on the 7-Chome block of Tokyo's Ginza Street. (Nippon Gakki later changed its name to Yamaha and became one of the world's largest manufacturers of musical instruments.)

Architect Antonin Raymond designed the building, including the hall and Mr. Akira Miki provided the acoustical consulting expertise. Contractors Tobishima Corporation and Shiraishi Kensetsu served as the project's general contractors. Mr. Raymond used a curtain wall on the front face of the building's exterior. This modern design element gave Japan a jump-start towards its emergence as a culturally innovative and internationally relevant nation. The building symbolized a new era for Japan and garnered much attention.

<< Yamaha Hall's Surprisingly Good Acoustics and the Mysterious Role of the Ribbed Panels >>

Yamaha Hall was built with a balcony and a total capacity of 524 seats. The ceiling height was 7.9 m. (26 ft) and the room's total spatial volume measured 1,780 cu. m. (62,860 cu. ft). The per-seat spatial volume was 3.4 cu. m. (120 cu. ft) and the sound reverberation time (at 500 Hz and with the hall empty) measures 0.7 seconds, a lack of reverberation that would be considered dead acoustics by today's standards.

At the time, the only other hall in Tokyo for music performance was the 2,300-seat Hibiya Kokaido Public Hall. The acoustics heard when listening to the performance of musical instruments and vocalists in the environment of Yamaha Hall's 1,780 cu. m. (62,860 cu. ft) space surpassed expectations. Moreover, the audience liked something about how this hall sounded and that something had to do with the ribbed panels, known as "Copenhagen ribbing" that decorated the hall's side walls. The hall's ribbed panels were the element that made the hall's acoustics sound so much better than expected, or so I had heard.

Back in the day, when Yamaha Hall opened, my knowledge of the hall and its ribbed panels went no further than acknowledging the impressive acoustics of the space and that the unknown specifics of the ribbed panels held the secret to understanding the hall's acoustics. In the years that followed, no opportunity presented itself for me to learn more about the Copenhagen ribbing, but from time to time I'd remember the panels and wonder about the mechanism that made them effective.

<< Decades Old Research Papers Reveal the Key to the Effect of Copenhagen Ribbing >>

Recently, however, in papers from the NHK Laboratories era, I came across an article entitled "Yamaha Hall's Acoustical Characteristics" in a supplement to the NHK Technical Research Journal, No. 31, printed in June, 1957. The journal attributes the paper only to the NHK Architectural Acoustics Research Team without naming a specific author, but from the content of the article, I could tell that then manager of the Architectural Acoustics Research Team, Prof. Yasuo Makita, wrote this enlightening paper.

The article includes the graph shown in Fig. 5, which plots reverberation times measured in Yamaha Hall. From this, I could now understand that the well-balanced acoustics pleased the audience those days. But the interesting phenomenon in acoustics was pointed out caused by "Copenhagen ribbing" on the side walls. The phenomenon is now known as diffraction from the arrangement of the ribs at regular intervals, but ringing sound occasionally heard in the space would gave the mysterious hearing impression.

<< Another Example of Copenhagen Ribbing >>

Coincidentally, this past February I found another example of Copenhagen ribbing when I visited another old structure, Kamakura Yukinoshita Church, in Kanagawa Prefecture, and discovered its Copenhagen ribbed side wall panels on both right and left sides of the sanctuary. It had been many years since the last time I saw this treatment up close and I couldn't resist the opportunity to give the ribs a tap with my hand. When my tapping caused a "bom-bom" sound from the ribbed panel, I realized that the material behind the ribbed panels must be carbonized cork. This design combines Copenhagen ribbed panels that vibrate at low frequencies and a layer of carbonized cork, which has relatively good sound absorbing properties at mid-range frequencies. We can safely surmise that the design was implemented here to provide a sound diffusing and sound absorbing surfaces.

This complicated structure with the ribbed panels has contributed to its well-balanced acoustics which are documented in the graph of Fig. 5.

<< Yamaha Hall Renewal Project >>

The original Yamaha Hall was gutted in January, 2008, then renovated and reopened as "Ginza Yamaha Hall" in the spring of 2010. The original hall opened during the still chaotic times of the postwar era and served the Tokyo music community during Japan's period of rapid economic growth, the flowering of music culture and the Ginza's rise across half a century to becoming some of the world's most prime commercial real estate.

The "DNA" of the old Yamaha Hall continues in the new Ginza Yamaha Hall. With internationally famous brand shops lining the main Ginza Street to both the left and the right of the new hall's building, I hope that the next generation of music fans will flock to the new hall as eagerly as my generation came to its namesake half a century ago.

* From "Reverberation of Yamaha Hall", NHK Gijutsu Kenkyu (The Technical Journal of Japan Broadcasting Corporation), June, 1957
** From Masaru Koyasu, "Short History of Sound Absorbing Materials", Onkyo Gijutsu (Architecrural Acoustics and Noise Control), No. 24, October, 1978

Nagata Acoustics Inc.

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E-mail: info@nagata.co.jp

[ Japanese Version ]