Quietness, Comfortable Sound and Excellent Acoustics NAGATA ACOUSTICS


News 12-09 (No.297)

Issued : September 25, 2012

[ Japanese Version ]

The Violin Museum and Chamber Hall are Completed in Cremona

By Daniel Beckmann

Cremona is a small city located on the banks of the Po River in northern Italy, about an hour's drive southeast of Milan, and is known historically as the foremost locale of violinmaking. The baroque violin, which evolved with some small modifications into the violin we know today, was probably perfected here in the mid-1500's by the luthier Andrea Amati. His children, grandchildren and their apprentices brought that art and craft to its pinnacle about two hundred years later with the work of Antonio Stradivari and Guiseppe Guarneri (del Gesú). The city retains its dominance in the art of violinmaking to this day with over one hundred volinmakers in the city, a major school of violinmaking, two important instrument collections and a tri-annual violinmaking competition.

The generosity of local entrepreneur Giovanni Arvedi, has provided the city with a new home for the violin collections and a chamber hall with approximately 475 seats. The new hall is intended to host concerts on the historical instruments as well as the instrument auditions for the violinmaking competition. The Stradivarian Museum is planned to move into the new museum.

<< Existing Historic Building Renovated for New Violin Museum >>

Figure-1 Exterior of the Violin Museum
Figure-1 "Exterior of the Violin Museum"

Figure-2 Original Space for Chamber Hall
Figure-2 "Original Space for Chamber Hall"

Figure-3 Chamber Hall Under Construction
Figure-3 "Chamber Hall Under Construction"

The new Museo del Violino is being inserted into the Palazzo dell'Arte, designed in the late 1930's by the Italian Rationalist architect Carlo Coccia, and was constructed in the 1940's.

The 6500m2 building stands out in the city for several reasons, first of all for its strikingly textural use of terra cotta and brick for all exterior elevations (See Figure-1 "Exterior of the Violin Museum"). The building sits at the far end of the Piazza Marconi, one of the larger urban spaces in the historic city, and dominates the square in a manner unlike any other building in Cremona. The two large, cubic forms of the building fronting the piazza enclose a small courtyard, the far end of which is defined by the new chamber hall. The new chamber hall once served as a Gymnasium for a local girl's school. The entirety of the museum renovation is designed by architects from the local firm of ArkPaBi, formed by the partnership of Giorgio Palú and Michele Bianchi. Nagata Acoustics has joined ArkPaBi as the acoustical consultant for the Chamber Hall.

<< Acoustical design of the Chamber Hall >>

The dimensions of the original gymnasium at approximately 36m long, 14m wide and 10m tall, seemed acoustically suited to conversion into a shoebox-style hall, even though the ceiling height was too low. (See Figure-2 "Original Space for Chamber Hall") This led the design team to investigate possibilities for increasing the ceiling height, since this was the critical limiting factor in achieving a good acoustical outcome. The decision was made to excavate below the existing floor of the room to increase the ceiling height by an additional 4m. Finally, a ceiling height of 14m above the stage floor was achieved. (See Figure-3 "Chamber Hall Under Construction")

The chamber hall has approximately 475 seats configured in an arena-style layout centered on an 85m2 stage. The expectation that the hall is only to be used for solo and chamber works allowed the use of such a small stage, which in turn gave substantial flexibility in the placement of the stage in the hall. We decided to place the stage almost in the center of the hall and create an arena-style layout, in order to have more than one potential sightline for the seating. Thus, there are seats on all sides of the oval stage, giving a large variety of views to the stage and also to other audience members.

Since the majority of the hall's design was restricted by the existing walls and ceiling, the major focus of the acoustical design effort was to insert a seating layout into the room which would lead to a pleasing acoustical environment. An iterative design process led to the resulting unique audience layout, which enhances the intimacy between performers and audience by minimizing the distance between the audience and performers, both physically and psychologically. The audience is further brought together by an arrangement that allows sightlines between different audience sections. The seating layout was designed by placing the state at the lowest point of the hall, and then in section arranging the seating areas at different elevations to give a highly three-dimensional layout.

The seating layout is composed of a large audience section facing the stage directly, which is divided into three sections and rises very steeply to meet the ceiling at the back of the room. The subdivision of this large audience area into sections of five to seven rows each serves to provide reflecting surfaces very close to each audience member, each with a carefully designed inclination and orientation, in order to facilitate the critical very early reflections. Facing the main large audience from behind the stage is another medium-sized block of audience seats, divided into two sections. This area can alternately be used as choir or audience seating, as programming requires. (See Figure-4 "Interior View of the Chamber Hall")

<< Measuring the Characteristics and Listening to Rehearsals >>

Figure-4 Interior View of the Chamber Hall
Figure-4 "Interior View of the Chamber Hall"

As the building nears completion, in early July we visited the site to take acoustical measurements. We measured a reverberation time of approximately 1.5s (at 500Hz, unoccupied) with a satisfyingly flat frequency response. During that time, we also had the opportunity to listen to several ensembles and soloists, including violin, cello, piano, male & female voice solos, and a string quartet, woodwind octet, and various sizes of choral ensembles, from the region rehearse to try out the new space, with very positive results for both the performers and the listeners. We encouraged the musicians not only to rehearse and play for their enjoyment in the space, but also to take the opportunity to listen from the empty audience areas. Their resulting acoustical impression, both from the stage and the audience, was very positive, in that the sound was quite rich with bass energy, and all details were clearly heard for each instrument and ensemble. The musicians were also pleased with the ease with which they could hear their own sounds, and differentiate them with the sound produced by their colleagues, making it easy to maintain a good ensemble quality. After this, the violin museum portion of the building will be completed for its opening in March of 2013, while rehearsals continuously take place in the Chamber Hall.


Taichung Metropolitan Opera House Construction Now Visible Above Ground!

By Chiaki Ishiwata

Architectural model submitted to competition by Toyo Ito & Associates(Photo courtesy of Toyo Ito & Associates)
Architectural model submitted to competition
by Toyo Ito & Associates
(Photo courtesy of Toyo Ito & Associates)

In our April, 2010 newsletter, we wrote that the Taichung Metropolitan Opera House construction work started (Architect: Toyo Ito & Associates). Two and a half years have elapsed since then. In August, I visited Taichung for on-site meetings. Here are some highlights of the construction work now in progress.

<< Project Overview and Location >>

The complex being built by this project has a 2,000-seat Grand Theatre Opera House as its main facility, plus an 800-seat Playhouse for drama performances and a 200-seat space for experimental theatre. The architectural design features three-dimensional, curved shapes known as catenoids for the walls and the floors. The spaces created by the catenoids are partitioned using flat structures called "plugs".

It takes an hour to Taichung south from Taipei by Taiwan High Speed Rail. The train of THSR looks just like a train of the Japan's Shinkansen of JR East.

The immediate neighborhood of Taitetsu Taichung Station still retains the image of an old town with shops lining both sides of the streets. From the station, I took a taxi in the direction of the ocean and arrived at the construction site after a 10-minute drive.

The complex is being built in a part of Taichung that has a large-scale grid plan and is surrounded by modern structures that house government offices and large department stores. The neighborhood also has a large park and a number of skyscraper condominiums.

<< Construction Progress >>

Construction of the catenoids (lower portion of photo)
Construction of the catenoids
(lower portion of photo)

Staging of catenoid skeletal reinforcements at the construction site
Staging of catenoid skeletal reinforcements
at the construction site

At the construction site the steel frames of the two fly towers, one for the Grand Theatre Opera House and one for the Playhouse, now rise high into the air. The catenoid shapes also have been completed to their second-floor levels.

The catenoids are being constructed using the truss wall construction method, which is one method of casting the complex 3D shape concrete structure on site. This method involves vertically lining up thin, steel bar trusses and binding them together horizontally. Instead of using a mold for the concrete, mesh is laid over the trusses and then the concrete is poured.

The catenoid's skeletal reinforcements are first fabricated at an off-site factory, then cut into pieces and shipped to the construction site. They are then reassembled on site. The accompanying photo shows the many skeletal reinforcements neatly arranged at a staging area while they wait to be reassembled.

<< Purpose of My On-Site Meetings >>

On this visit to Taichung I met with Lee Ming Construction, the local Taichung construction company responsible for building the project. I explained the construction activities that need special care and attention because of their impact on the acoustics of the completed project. We also discussed acoustical details of the project's construction phase and confirmed the current state of the project from the acoustical design perspective.

The next construction phase includes our anti-vibration and noise structural designs for the practice rooms and the experimental theatre. Naturally, the project still has lots of details that will require discussion and attention. Nevertheless, the construction work is progressing steadily.


Renovated Ushiku City's Escard Hall Opens

By Toshiko Fukuchi


The renovation and repurposing of an old hall into a concert hall completed recently in Ushiku City, Ibaraki Prefecture. The renovated Escard Hall is conveniently located directly across from JR Joban Line's Ushiku Station on the fourth floor of the Escard Ushiku Building. The city's lifelong learning center has been the tenant on the building's fourth floor and the center's renewal project enabled funding of the 253-seat Escard Hall and a new, multipurpose performance studio. The center held an opening celebration for these two performance spaces on August 5, 2012.

<< History of the Venue and Project Overview >>

Escard Hall before the renovations
Escard Hall before the renovations

Escard Hall after completion of the renovations
Escard Hall after completion of the renovations

The Escard Ushiku Building is a 4-story structure built in 1987 as part of a redevelopment plan for the environs of Ushiku Station's west entrance. The multipurpose building has a variety of tenants, including food stores, clothing stores, bookstores, medical professional offices, banks and other shops and services.

Prior to the renovation project, the lifelong learning center had a flat-floored hall that could accommodate seating for at most 200 people, as well as a library and a lecture room. The hall had a small stage but no acoustical stage shell, making it difficult to use the space for acoustic music concerts.

Also, for some years prior to the start of the renovation project, many of Ushiku City's residents advocated for the construction of a medium-sized hall in their city, but a number of circumstances had prevented their dream from coming to fruition. After their long wait, the lifelong learning center renewal project created an excellent opportunity to renovate the existing hall into a hall designed specifically for music concerts. In addition, the lifelong learning center is in an ideal location that offers easy access to the city's residents.

Environment Design Institute served as the project architect. Tokiwa Corporation was the general contractor.

<< Sound Isolation of Escard Hall and Escard Studio in the Multipurpose Building Environment >>

Because of the multipurpose nature of Escard Ushiku Building, the renovated hall and the new studio are located in close proximity to other spaces with diverse uses. The hall is adjacent to offices of an ear, nose and throat specialist and directly above a bookstore. The studio has a bank directly below it. Also, the building's heating, air conditioning and ventilation ("HVAC") equipment is located on the roof, which is directly above the hall and studio on the uppermost fourth floor.

In order to effectively address the project's sound isolation needs we researched the existing sound isolation and noise conditions before we began the renovation's design work. Specifically, we measured the sound isolation performance levels in the existing facility and the noise generated by the HVAC equipment on the roof. We referred to this data during our development of the sound isolation structural design and HVAC system noise control design.

For Escard Studio, we implemented an anti-vibration and sound isolation structural design to mitigate sound transmission to the bank located directly below on the third floor. The new studio venue can be used for dance and music performances without disturbing the bank tenant and the design ensures that the hall can be used during banking hours as well as in the evening.

<< The Challenge of Escard Hall's Ceiling Height >>

Concert halls require high ceilings. However, the floor-to-floor height of the Escard Ushiku Building's fourth floor is only 5.5 m. (18 ft). As a result, regardless of how creative we might be with our room design, the maximum height possible is just 5 m. (16.4 ft). Because Escard Hall is on the top floor of the building, we began joking with each other that we should just remove the roof so that we could increase the hall's ceiling height. At one point, we seriously considered the feasibility of such a design, but it proved too difficult to implement. Instead, we made sure that we obtained the maximum ceiling height possible within the given constraints and we planned a ceiling surface that promotes fine acoustics. Through these and other design elements we achieved acoustics intended for music performances.

<< The Confluence of Escard Hall's Acoustical Design Needs and Interior Details >>

Escard Hall has walls of beige brick tiles that effectively promote sound diffusion, turning the old hall into a newly debuted chic venue. The stage has an acoustical stage shell that can be configured to open or closed positions. When the stage shell is configured to its closed position, the hall can be used for music concerts, and when its open position, then for dance performances. In addition to the stage shell, the renovation added dressing rooms behind the stage and upgraded other functionalities.

<< Ushiku Residents Show their Delight at the Hall's Opening >>

At Escard Hall's opening event, I had the opportunity to talk with some of the city's residents. But even without asking them anything, I could see in their facial expressions how they deeply enjoyed the new hall. Their unabashed joy somehow made me feel the strain the community endured during the vicissitudes and years that preceded the realization of the renovation project. I'm sure the residents of Ushiku City will fill the seats of their new hall and studio often and will make this location a favorite venue for cultural activities.

The Escard Hall website can be found at http://www.city.ushiku.ibaraki.jp/section/chuuou/sisetu/escard/escard%20info.html.



Nagata Acoustics Inc.

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[ Japanese Version ]