Quietness, Comfortable Sound and Excellent Acoustics NAGATA ACOUSTICS


News 14-03 (No.315)

Issued : March 25, 2014

[ Japanese Version ]

Soochow University School of Music Hall Construction Project

By Motoo Komoda

Artist's rendering of En Ling Student Activity Center
Artist's rendering of
En Ling Student Activity Center

In the southeastern part of China's Jiangsu Province, Suzhou City continues its long history and fame as a producer of silk textiles. Today, the city is conveniently linked to Shanghai via an expressway that has reduced the travel time between the two cities to about one hour. Suzhou City has a world-renowned old city and surrounding neighborhood with a canal that residents used for local navigation and that earned the city the appellation "Venice of the East." The old city still boasts numerous buildings of historical significance and classical-style gardens that have been designated World Cultural and National Heritage sites.

One of the city's most famous cultural treasures is Hanshan Temple, mentioned by Tang Dynasty poet Zhang Ji in his poem "A Night Mooring by Maple Bridge". Some readers may also be familiar with the mid-20th-century actress Yoshiko Yamaguchi (Chinese name: Li Xianglan or Li Hsiang-Ian) and the melody of "Suzhou Nocturne" from the soundtrack of her movie China Nights.

On a more contemporary note, Pritzker Prize-winning architect I. M. Pei, who designed the Paris Louvre's Glass Pyramid, comes from a family of generations of Suzhou landowners. In Suzhou, Mr. Pei designed a new building (opened in 2006) for the Suzhou Museum of ancient Chinese art. The museum stands adjacent to the city's largest and most famous garden, the Humble Administrator's Garden.

<< Soochow University and Its New School of Music >>

Map of the Planned En Ling Student Activity Center complex
Map of the Planned
En Ling Student Activity Center complex

With the old city on one side and Dushu Lake along its other perimeter, Soochow University's campus spreads across a large area. The university was founded in 1900 and over the years a number of neighboring schools merged with the university. Now the Chinese government has designated the university as having the special status of the most prioritized institution of higher education in Jiangsu Province. The university's 28 schools offer a hugely diverse range of academics and the medical school is especially well regarded. Some 60,000 students attend school here, taught by about 5,000 professors and other instructors.

In 2012, the university established the School of Music and Dr. Hekun Wu accepted the school's invitation to become the school's first dean. Dr. Wu, who was born in Shanghai, is a noted cellist-conductor. He has performed with many orchestras around the world and he also puts much energy into pedagogy for the next generation of musicians through his work as cello professor and conductor at Willamette University in Salem, Oregon. In accepting the appointment to be dean of Soochow University School of Music-in a location not far from his birthplace-Dr. Wu chose to dedicate his tireless drive and passion for music education to this new institution in his home country. Classes at the School of Music began in fall, 2013.

At Soochow University School of Music a rich international diversity pervades both the faculty and the student body. A number of subjects-including instrument instruction, composition and music theory classes-are taught in English. In addition to the diverse faculty and student body, the university has entered into a comprehensive partnership with Bard College that will include not only student-exchange opportunities and joint programs between Soochow University School of Music and The Bard College Conservatory of Music, but also exploration into creating a Bard College Liberal Arts Academy in Soochow University and further deepening the two schools' comprehensive collaboration. Nagata Acoustics served as the acoustical consultant for Bard College's performing arts center, which opened in April, 2003. (See our July, 2003 newsletter.)

<< The Early Phase of the Soochow University Construction Project >>

Even before the founding of the Soochow University School of Music, in March, 2010 the university began an on-campus convention center project aimed at expanding its international exchange activities. The new building will be named En Ling Student Activity Center after the Hong Kong philanthropist who is the project's chief donor. The main highlight of this new complex is its 1,400-seat multipurpose hall.

Initially, the design for the hall had a proscenium stage, a fly tower to store stage equipment and two tiers of balcony seating. Construction began on this rather typical design and by the time Dr. Wu came on board as dean and invited Nagata Acoustics to become involved in the project, the concrete framing of the facility was nearly complete. Dr. Wu asked us to join the project and gave us the goal of making the hall's acoustics suitable for classical music concerts. We began a review of the design and the project reevaluated its plans.

<< Nagata Acoustics' Adjustments to the Hall's Design >>

Exterior of Multipurpose Hall at Current Stage of Construction
Exterior of Multipurpose Hall
at Current Stage of Construction

Interior of Multipurpose Hall at Current Stage of Construction
Interior of Multipurpose Hall
at Current Stage of Construction

As a result of our review of the plan for the hall's design, and given the construction progress, we kept the concrete frame as originally designed. We increased the height of the proscenium's opening and added an orchestra shell (an on-stage, sound reflection panel system) to the hall's stage equipment. In addition, we gave the floor of the orchestra pit functionality that enables it to be raised to the same height as the stage floor so that a protruding stage can be configured to accommodate large orchestras.

In an open space to the north of the building that has the multipurpose hall we added a 400-seat classical music recital hall to the project. Our design for this hall focuses primarily on the performance of chamber music. For this recital hall we adopted an arena layout with the audience seating surrounding the stage. This configuration will create a strongly intimate experience for the audience and a feeling of unity between audience and performers. We designed this hall with a high ceiling that will promote rich acoustics.

<< Summary of the Construction Project's Details >>

The architect for this project is Hong Kong-based Philip Liao & Partners. The building that holds the multipurpose hall is located on the south part of the center's land. Also on the south part of the complex will be a building for the School of Music's daily activities and a library. Together with the multipurpose hall they comprise Phase 1 of the project, which has a target completion date mid-year in 2015. The recital hall will be in the second phase of the project, which also includes an outdoor theatre space.

Currently, Nagata Acoustics is focused on the details of both hall's configurations and the interior specifications for each hall.

The Soochow University School of Music website


JATET Forum 2013-14:
"Report on Theatre and Hall Damage from the Great Tohoku Earthquake"

By Fumiaki Sakamaki

On Wednesday, January 29, 2014 the Theatre and Entertainment Technology Association, Japan (JATET) held its third annual forum. At the previous gatherings, presenters and attendees focused their attention on a report about damage from the Great Tohoku Earthquake of 2011, including presentations about strategies for withstanding future earthquakes and a case study about a ceiling that collapsed and its reconstruction and seismic upgrades. (For more about the December, 2011 JATET Forum, see our January, 2013 newsletter.)

As must be obvious from the forum's title, the 2013-14 event continued the topic of the previous sessions for a third time. The presenters reported on the current state of hall damage, reconstruction plans and plans for a hall ceiling's reconstruction. The agenda included speakers from areas affected by the earthquake and who represent a variety of public and private roles and perspectives. In this forum of like-minded attendees and presenters with similar situations and similar goals, the speakers reported, discussed and shared useful information about their projects.

<< Key Learnings from a Survey of Impacted Halls >>

During the first session, Tokyo City University Professor Hideaki Katsumata reported on the findings of a Japan-wide survey sent to 2,253 public and private sector halls to assess the extent of damage to the halls and the status of each hall's reconstruction. In the 1,061 responses received, the halls' representives answered questions about the time required to complete repairs and rebuilding, the cost of reconstruction, whether the hall has resumed or was able to continue operations during the repairs, whether they have any emergency shelter or not, what seismic capabilities were added to the hall and the hall's long-term plans for future repairs and improvements. In addition to the written survey, in-person interviews with representatives of 14 facilities that had sustained severe damage provided additional insights.

Sendai National College of Technology Associate Mr. Taiyo Sakaguchi explained that if a hall's emergency shelter can only be accessed via a corridor that has not been seismically upgraded, the ceiling of the corridor might collapse during an earthquake, resulting in injuries to evacuees or blocking access to the shelter. Mr. Sakaguchi also stressed that at halls where the Great Tohoku Earthquake didn't cause injuries, the credit for this goes to on-site hall employees who exercised good judgement and proactively took life-saving initiatives. Therefore, going forward, in addition to improving and maintaining the seismic performance of physical structures, it is equally important to teach employees and other people how to behave and what to do at a hall when an earthquake occurs.

<< Case Study of Revising a Ceiling Structure from Suspended to Framed >>

The second session began with a case study of the Ueda City Cultural Center's hall ceiling seismic reinforcement project. Mr. Hiroaki Kobayashi of the architectural and structural design and development company Azusa Sekkei Co., Ltd. presented. This project encompassed both the large and small hall of the facility. The design phase began in 2010 and construction started in 2012.

The project included ceiling seismic reinforcement for both halls as its original 2010 objectives-before the 2011 Great Tohoku Earthquake. But in July, 2012, just as the project's construction phase was scheduled to begin, the Japan Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism (MLITT) published the draft version of new regulatory standards for preventing ceiling collapse, making it obvious that this construction regulation would change in the near term. While it was too early to know what the exact new specifications would be, Azusa Sekkei decided to review and revise some details of the project's ceiling seismic design in accordance with anticipated changes to MLITT's construction standards.

Azusa Sekkei's fundamental approach was to stop using suspended ceilings in its designs, because this design was a direct cause of ceiling collapses in the Great Tohoku Earthquake. Instead, they added a framed ceiling structure matching the shape of the ceiling and, before deciding on the anchorage details and the clearance between the ceiling and the rest of the building, they applied earthquake simulations to the design to validate their seismic performance expectations for the design.

<< Cultural Events Relieved Stress after the Great Tohoku Earthquake >>

Sendai City's Head of Cultural Affairs, Mr. Takahisa Hosoi spoke next. He said that in the early days after the earthquake people put all their efforts into life and death needs and they thought they could do without cultural activities. However, when he and others listened to some music at a reconstruction benefit concert their stress melted away and they experienced a real sense of being alive. His comments gave us a glimpse of the dire conditions in the aftermath of the earthquake.

In the final presentation, Tohoku University's Department of Architecture Professor Yasuaki Onoda reported on a project in Kamaishi City, Iwate Prefecture. After Kamaishi City suffered tsunami damage Prof. Onoda and architect Toyo Ito joined a project team for the "Front Project". This project includes direct participation by city residents to build a large commercial, shopping and hall complex in the eastern part of the city. The project goal is to revitalize the area and give residents a vibrant and bustling community destination.

The last part of the event featured a 3-person panel discussion with Prof. Onoda, Mr. Tooru Takagi of Seinenza Theatre Company, Mr. Masahiko Mito of Sennan Performing Arts and Culture Center in Miyagi Prefecture, and Nihon University Professor Shozo Motosugi. The panelists discussed various aspects of how hall design should evolve in the future given what we've learned from the damage caused by the Great Tohoku Earthquake.

This year's JATET Forum included a great amount of useful information, data and ideas. I encourage readers who want to know more about the proceedings to contact JATET directly for more details.


Ms. Miho Ito Speaks about Fundraising at Nagata Acoustics Home Office

By Toshiko Fukuchi

From time to time, Nagata Acoustics invites speakers to share with us their expertise and insights on a variety of topics related to halls and the performing arts. This time we invited Ms. Miho Ito to speak to us about fundraising.

Ms. Miho Ito
Ms. Miho Ito

<< About Ms. Ito >>

Ms. Ito graduated from Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. After her graduation she participated in fundraising activities for Walt Disney Hall in Los Angeles. Thereafter, until 2003 she was employed by Nagata Acoustics in our Los Angeles office.

In 2003, Ms. Ito returned to Japan and founded Arts Bridge, Inc. (the website is in Japanese only) which provides consulting services to Japanese non-profit organizations and public-service corporations. In addition, Ms. Ito plans and produces concerts and she currently represents Arts Bridge, Inc. on the board of the Japan Fundraising Association.

<< Fundraising Needs of Japanese Performing Arts Organizations >>

Many Japanese performing arts organizations need additional funding sources to supplement their revenues from ticket sales. They may receive some funding support from national, regional and local government programs and from corporate sponsorships or donations, but given the vicissitudes of the political and business worlds and changing economic conditions, it is difficult for performing arts organizations to maintain stable financial situations when they rely on these funding sources.

Donations from individuals can be a more stable source of funding. However, unlike in the United States where individual charitable giving is part of everyday life, in Japan individuals typically give monetary donations in cases of extraordinary circumstances, such as the Great Tohoku Earthquake. Creating an everyday tradition of donating to organizations and causes has yet to be realized. Ms. Ito and some others think the time is ripe for this to happen.

<< The Japan Fundraising Association >>

In 2009, the Japan Fundraising Association was established. It pursues various activities to promote fundraising and to encourage a culture of charitable giving to take root in Japan. The association set itself the goal of achieving annual Japanese "goodwill" donations of ¥10 trillion (nearly US$1 billion at current exchange rates) by the year 2020.

In addition to increasing the total amount of individual charitable giving in Japan, the association works to develop the skills of fundraisers so that they can work successfully and have pride and confidence in their activities. Through its programs and efforts, the association aims to achieve a society where donors experience the joy and satisfaction of giving.

<< Kanagawa Philharmonic Orchestra Case Study >>

As an example of her work, Ms. Ito spoke to us about the current fundraising campaign of Kanagawa Philharmonic Orchestra (the website is in Japanese only). She explained that an important rule of fundraising campaigns is to set and communicate a clear goal and purpose. In the case of the Kanagawa Philharmonic, the orchestra wanted to pay off more than ¥300 million in debt and create a net capital fund of ¥3 million. The orchestra unfurled a fundraising campaign with the stated goal of raising ¥500 million and established the Blue Dal Endowment Fund. ("Blue Dal" is the name of Yokohama's illustrated mascot, a Dalmatian with blue spots. The Blue Dal character now appears on many souvenirs and other merchandise sold in Yokohama.)

The orchestra ramped up the frequency of its performances and increased its venues, playing 280 concerts throughout Kanagawa Prefecture in 2012. On the orchestra's home page, the current total funds raised displays below an illustration of Blue Dal playing a tuba. On the day this article was penned, the amount displayed on the website was over ¥460 million putting the campaign's goal within close reach. Also, the orchestra is now selling more season subscriptions than before, a trend that bodes well for continuing patron support in the future.

<< Developing One Time Donors into Ongoing Relationships >>

Ms. Ito explained the importance of developing support that doesn't stop with a one-time gift but instead continues with individuals donating repeatedly. To this end, it is essential that the organization report the results of its fundraising campaigns to donors and prospective donors.

After listening to Ms. Ito's presentation I gained new appreciation for the important role of fundraisers in creating a bridge between donors and recipient organizations. If more people in Japan would increase their interest in fundraising and how to accomplish it, then perhaps the current methods and systems by which performing arts organizations obtain their funding might also change.



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 308
Los Angeles, CA 90025, U.S.A.
Tel: +1-310-231-7878, Fax: +1-310-231-7816

(Paris Office)
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 ]