News 12-08 (No.296)
Issued : August 25, 2012
[ Japanese Version ]
Artforet Performing Arts Center Opens in Kashiwazaki City, Niigata Prefecture
By Ayako Hakozaki
Artforet Performing Arts Center Exterior
Niigata Prefecture's Kashiwazaki City is located mid-way along the prefecture's Japan Sea coastline and surrounded by mountains known collectively as the three Kariba Mountains. City residents enjoy views of bountiful natural landscapes in all directions.
Kashiwazaki City has many beaches along the Japan Sea coast and in late July the annual Gion Kashiwazaki Festival fills the skies over the waters with spectacular fireworks. Each year, this festival is the first of three annual fireworks displays in Niigata Prefecture. (The other two festivals are the Nagaoka Fireworks Festival, held the first week of August, and the Katakai Fireworks Festival, held in September.)
Looking towards the inland mountains, the city's views include hamlets with traditional thatched kayabuki-roofed farmhouses and terraced rice paddies. Each of the four seasons brings different, eye-pleasing views that look much the same as they have for centuries.
<< A Project with Community Goals of Earthquake Preparedness and Broad Participation in the Arts >>
In July, 2012, a new public performing arts civic center named Artforet opened in Kashiwazaki City. When I think about this location, I cannot help but think of earthquakes and, of course, the 2011 Tohoku Great Earthquake is still fresh in my mind even a year after that tragic event. Kashiwazaki City is also not a stranger to earthquake disasters. In May, 2007, the Chuetsu-Oki Earthquake struck with a strong magnitude of 6, causing a large amount of damage in the region.
The Chuetsu-Oki Earthquake rendered the city's old civic center unusable. As part of the post-earthquake reconstruction plan, Kashiwazaki City decided to build a new civic center that would be a hub of performing arts and cultural activities and that would also be equipped with functionalities to serve the public need as a gathering place in case of another earthquake or other calamity. The city chose a parcel of land conveniently located at the entrance to Kashiwazaki Train Station that was formerly the site of a Nippon Oil Corporation petroleum processing plant.
Construction of the new performing arts center has come to symbolize the city's resurgence after the 2007 earthquake. The building's design paid special attention to safety during an earthquake and included the adoption of a seismically resistant structure as a key objective of the project.
The center's "Artforet" name was chosen from suggestions submitted by the public. A center spokesperson has explained that the name, a combination of two French words "Art Forêt", was chosen because a forest can be thought of as many trees together in one place and the center's aim is to bring many people together in one place to engage in the arts and cultural events.
The Tokyo architectural firm, Environment Design Institute created the center's architectural design and a specially formed consortium of Ueki Corporation, Abe Construction and Tohoku Construction built the facility. Nagata Acoustics served as acoustical consultant.
<< Overview of the New Performing Arts Center >>
(In the center of the photo is the children's sound playground.)
Artforet has a main hall, a smaller, multipurpose performance space, large and small practice rooms, and a public lounge where visitors to the center can relax and hang out, plus other support rooms. The lounge features a two-story atrium design with a glass panel exterior that lets in abundant light.
At one end of the lounge, a tall objet stands. This eye-catching shape was designed specifically as a children's play area. Named the "sound playground", this objet has a musical instrument embedded in it. Environment Design Institute has a reputation for researching children's play spaces and this innovation clearly bears the architect's imprint.
Environment Design Institute maximized the potential uses of the public lounge by including an operable exterior wall that can be opened to the plaza and lawn outside. The arc-shaped, stepped lawn beyond the plaza will be used as an outdoor theater during the city's warmer months. In addition, the architect designed the building to shelter visitors from winters' heavy snows, rainy weather and wind, as well as from strong sunlight by developing a covered external system the architect calls "the city walk", which surrounds the exterior of the building on the ground level.
<< The Main Hall's Room Acoustical Design >>
Main Hall Plan View (conceptual drawing)
Main Hall Stage
Main Hall Audience Seating
The multipurpose main hall has one balcony and a total of 1,102 seats. The balcony is divided into five blocks of seats, with the seats of each block angled so that they face towards the stage. Architect Tadashi Saito compares this configuration to the shape of a human hand when the palm and fingers are in a relaxed, open position. In this comparison, the stage is like the palm of the hand and the five blocks of balcony seating are like the hand's fingers. In the Japanese language, as in English, the expression "to hold in the palm of one's hand" connotes an intimate oneness. Likewise, Mr. Saito's architectural design aims to achieve a feeling of unity between the performance stage and the audience in the five blocks of balcony seats that extend toward the upper rear of the hall.
The architect created continuity between the old Kashiwazaki City Civic Center and the new main hall by incorporating aspects of the old center's hall shape. In both the old hall and the new main hall, the width of the audience seating area gradually increases from the first row of seating in front of the stage towards the balcony rear wall. A concern of using this shape is that the acoustics in the center of the hall might sound diluted. To ensure that these center seats enjoy the same full sound as the other audience seats. We added eaves to the sidewalls near the stage proscenium and on the upper portions of the walls behind the balcony we installed an array of flat wood panels stacked horizontally and cantilevered at specific angles. As part of our design work we studied the best angles to specify for these panels so that abundant sound reflections reach the center area of the audience seating.
Another highlight of our acoustical design for the hall involved ensuring that the hall's side walls are rigid enough to adequately reflect low frequency sounds. To this end, we specified that the walls be made of concrete with rough-finished tiles affixed to the surface of the concrete. The tiles prevent the sound reflections from being too jarring.
The main hall's observed reverberation time measures 1.9 seconds (at 500 Hz, in an empty hall). Based on this value, the calculated reverberation time for the full hall at the same mid-frequencies is 1.7 seconds.
<< Multipurpose Performance Space Room Acoustical Design >>
Multipurpose Performance Space
The multipurpose performance space has a flat-floored configuration and accommodates about 160 movable chairs. The programming for this room includes chamber music, chorus performances and other small scale concerts. The room is also well suited for use as a rehearsal room and for a range of other events.
The side walls of the multipurpose performance space have a gentle curve and the ceiling has an accordion-fold design. Both of these room acoustical design elements inhibit the occurrence of flutter echoes and promote sound diffusion.
In this room, we limited the use of fixed sound absorbing surfaces to small, dispersed areas on the walls and ceiling. To increase the room's sound absorption characteristic for specific performance needs, we installed retractable sound-absorbing curtains on the side and rear walls.
<< Sound Isolation Plan for the Entire Center >>
In addition to the main hall and multipurpose performance space, Artforet has a large and a small practice room. The two practice rooms are located in close proximity to each other on the same level. One focus of our sound isolation work on this project was devising a sound isolation strategy between the two practice rooms so that they can be used simultaneously.
For these two rooms, as well as for the multipurpose performance space, we adopted an anti-vibration and sound isolation structural design. This design achieved a high level of sound isolation performance between the practice rooms and between the multipurpose performance space and other facilities of Artforet.
<< Artforet Performing Arts Center Opening Concert >>
On July 11, 2012, the center hosted an event to celebrate the center's opening. Billed as "Concert and Conversation with Composer Shin-ichiro Ikebe, Artforet's Acoustics", the program featured pianists Kaori Kimura and Niigata native Shinji Kosugi. Ms. Kimura served as piano selection consultant for the new center and the opening concert featured her and Mr. Kosugi performing on the hall's new Steinway and Yamaha pianos. The two pianists performed an assortment of easy-listening compositions interspersed with interesting conversation and episodic tales about Ms. Kimura's piano selection process.
In addition to the conversation and piano music concert part of the event, Mr. Ikebe joined Environmental Design Institute's Chief Architect, Mr. Tadashi Saito, and Nagata Acoustics' Toshiko Fukuchi for a panel discussion about the center and its design. Local residents who gathered to hear the talk listened intently to the discussion about the building's architectural and acoustical designs.
For the first half of this event, attendees filled the first floor seating of the main hall. During the intermission, word spread that "the acoustics in the balcony seating are also good and now's the chance to listen in these seats as well." As a result, some of audience moved to balcony seats for the second half of the program.
In Japan, after a hall's opening it is unusual for a hall to invite the public to a panel discussion about the hall's architectural design. The event at Artforet seemed to increase interest in the center and I think this kind of program can be effective in promoting a new hall.
When the opportunity arises, I hope you will come and enjoy a performance in Kashiwazaki City's Artforet Performing Arts Center. For more information about Kashiwazaki City's Artforet Performing Arts Center, please visit the center's Web site at http://www.artforet.jp/.
Maestro Daniel Harding Appointed Music Director at Karuizawa Ohga Hall
By Dr. Keiji Oguchi
Maestro Harding performing with the New Japan Philharmonic
at the concert celebrating his installation as
Karuizawa Ohga Hall Music Director
Photo courtesy of Karuizawa Ohga Hall
Maestro Daniel Harding, the young orchestra conductor who has been all the rage as Music Director of the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra and as "Music Partner" of the New Japan Philharmonic, also became first-ever Artistic Director of Karuizawa Ohga Hall in April, 2012. On July 1, he led the New Japan Philharmonic in a concert at Ohga Hall to commemorate his appointment to the position.
Karuizawa Ohga Hall takes its name from the late Mr. Norio Ohga, the former president and chairman of Sony Corporation. Mr. Ohga donated his retirement compensation to fund the building of the hall as a gift to the town of Karuizawa. The hall, which is featured in our June, 2005 newsletter, seats 784 on a single level and has a 5-sided surround configuration that rises to a peak at the center of the ceiling.
<< Maestro Harding and Karuizawa Ohga Hall - A Relationship Meant to Be >>
The story of Maestro Harding's appointment as Artistic Director begins back in 2005 when Karuizawa Ohga Hall opened. According to a recent press release, "Maestro Harding had great respect for the late Mr. Norio Ohga who was both an accomplished musician and a successful international business leader. When Karuizawa Ohga Hall opened 6 years ago, Maestro Harding came from London to experience the hall and was deeply impressed by the hall's wonderful acoustics. While still alive, Mr. Ohga, in turn, expressed his respect for Maestro Harding, specifying him by name as an important young conductor who would pull the classical music world forward. After Mr. Ohga's passing, the hall actively pursued hiring Maestro Harding and the effort came to fruition this spring."
Maestro Harding also foresaw his connection with Ohga Hall. After visiting it in 2005, he wrote on his home page that "I have spent a few days in Japan on a little business and seeing friends. I have found "a small jewel" there which might be very important in my future. I will talk about it some other time." The small jewel he was referring to was Karuizawa Ohga Hall.
<< Maestro Harding's Performances in Ohga Hall >>
Prior to becoming the hall's Artistic Director, Maestro Harding performed on the Ohga Hall stage once, at last summer's memorial concert for Mr. Ohga. He conducted the Tokyo Philharmonic and Tokyo Opera Singers in a performance of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony.
Maestro Harding's second appearance on the stage, at the concert to celebrate his installation as Artistic Director, featured Verdi's overture to La Forza del Destino, Wagner's Tannhauser overture and Beethoven's Seventh Symphony. In Karuizawa Ohga Hall's modest space, this program of musical heavyweights steeped the audience in a dense music experience without overpowering the room.
The highlight of the evening was Maestro Harding's Nimrod from Elgar's Enigma Variations. At the end of this performance, I could hear a quintessentially Karuizawa-esque moment of silence.
Maestro Harding spoke about his plans as Artistic Director, saying that the music of "this wonderful gift left to us by the venerable Mr. Ohga should appeal to classical music lovers the world over." He added that he also wants "to oversee the hall's growth to yet a higher artistic level." Karuizawa is a town with distinctive character and Ohga Hall likewise has a very distinctive personality. I look forward to Maestro Harding infusing his music with the special qualities of Karuizawa and Ohga Hall as he leads Karuizawa Ohga Hall into the future.
Karuizawa Ohga Hall : http://www.ohgahall.or.jp/en/summary/index.php
Nagata Acoustics Inc.
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[ Japanese Version ]