News 15-05 (No.329)
Issued : May 25, 2015
Kazuno City Cultural Exchange Center ”Komosse” Opens
By Dr. Keiji Oguchi
Komosse Kazuno City Cultural Exchange Center Exterior
On April 16, 2015, a new cultural exchange center named Komosse (pronounced “koh-mo-sseh”) opened in Kazuno City, Akita Prefecture. Kazuno City is located along the northeastern edge of Akita Prefecture where Akita Prefecture and Aomori Prefecture share a border that is also next to Iwate Prefecture. From Tokyo, the most efficient means of traveling to Kazuno is via Morioka City in Iwate Prefecture, either by taking an express bus that runs on the Tohoku Expressway or by taking the JR Hanawa Train Line from Morioka Station.
Akita, Aomori and Iwate prefectures all comprise part of Japan’s northern snow country. In the winter, Kazuno City receives plentiful snowfall and while I worked on this project I could see the ski slopes in two directions from the job site.
<< 2009 Kazuno City Revitalization Vision Document Leads to Building the Cultural Exchange Center >>
The new cultural exchange center is located near the JR Hanawa Train Station on land where Kazuno Kosei Hospital formerly stood. In 2009, the city published the “Kazuno City Community Revitalization Vision”, a plan for the part of the city that includes this piece of land. The vision conceived of a multipurpose facility with a library, spaces for creative cultural expression, services office to support citizen’s activities, and a space for cultural exchange activities.
After publishing the revitalization vision document, the city organized an advisory panel of experts who developed the basic programming for the project and held workshops to involve local residents in the project’s definition. The advisory panel also organized the public call for architects to submit proposals for the project’s design and implementation.
The Tohoku Branch of the Japanese architectural firm AXS Satow won the open competition for the project. Kajima Construction Company served as the general contractor. The multipurpose facility houses a library, Culture Hall, Hanawa Citizen’s Center, Kodomo Mirai Center (a center to promote the future of the city’s children), and a community plaza.
Nagata Acoustics joined the project to provide the architectural acoustical and noise control consulting services of Culture Hall and an auditorium that is part of the citizen’s center, as well as acoustical and noise control consulting services for practice room and a multipurpose studio that adjoin the community plaza. Nagata Acoustics provided comprehensive consulting services from the design phase of the project through the construction and commissioning phases, including performing measurement validations of the acoustics of these spaces in the completed facility.
<< Evaluating the Noise Levels from Nearby Railroad Tracks >>
The tracks of the JR Hanawa Train Line run adjacent to the west side of the cultural exchange center’s site. The building is located in the middle of the site with parking spaces for vehicles surrounding it. The space inside the building that would be most impacted by external noise and vibration is Culture Hall, yet the building’s layout placed this space along the side of the building closest to the JR tracks. The distance from the tracks to the hall’s fly tower—the part of the hall closest to the tracks—measures just 35 m. (115 ft).
Based on our previous experience designing halls located near railroad tracks, if the tracks are 50 m. (164 ft) or more from the hall, then there are only negligible amounts of solid-borne railway noise transmitted to the hall and it’s fine to not worry about adopting special measures. But this hall is located at a distance of 35 m., a less clear-cut situation in terms of whether special vibration mitigation measures would be needed. Therefore , after the building’s below grade concrete was poured, we measured the vibration from passing trains and analyzed the overall vibration mitigating effectiveness of trenches already built between the tracks and the building. From our comprehensive analysis we were able to determine that additional vibration mitigation measures would not be needed. Our original design specifications included the installation of an underground layer of elastic material. We revised our specification and construction proceeded without this item.
After the completion of construction we measured the noise level in the hall and confirmed that while 30 dBA of noise can be detected at the stage wings, noise from passing trains cannot be detected at all on stage where an acoustical shell envelope the space.
<< Culture Hall Room Acoustical Design >>
Interior of the Cultural Hall (Stage View from Auditorium)
Interior of the Cultural Hall (Auditorium View from Stage)
Culture Hall has the acoustical shell for classical music concerts and a basically rectangular hall configuration. We located the maximum height of the ceiling at the stage proscenium opening where the stage meets the audience seating. The stage ceiling connects smoothly to the portion of ceiling that extends above the audience seating.
On the side walls of the hall we installed two series of horizontal acoustical soffits that provide lateral reflections toward the audience. In addition, in the audience seating area, we installed two terrace walls so that the audience seating is divided into three sections. The purpose of these terrace walls is to provide reflections of very short delay time to the seating areas in front of the walls.
The reverberation time in Culture Hall is 2 seconds (at 500 Hz, unoccupied). At the time of writing this article, I haven’t yet had the pleasure of experiencing a performance in the hall. I look forward to that opportunity and to confirming with my own ears the results of our room acoustical design.
As for the center’s “Komosse” name, the choice reflects multiple word associations across several languages and cultures. In Japanese, “ko-mo-se” means the soffits built at the front walls of houses in this part of Japan to keep the snow away from the houses. In addition, people involved with the hall knew of the English word “commons” and the German word “messe”, both of which are related to places where people gather. The people deciding the name for the new cultural exchange center merged and adapted the English and German words and their spellings to create the name Komosse. The horizontal soffits of the Cultural Hall may be likened to the ko-mo-se soffits of local architecture and hopefully the new center’s name foretells the new facility’s destiny to bring many people together for cultural and other events.
The URL of the new center is http://www.city.kazuno.akita.jp/comosse/
Yamanashi Gakuin University’s Builds for Newly Established International College of Liberal Arts
By Toshiko Fukuchi
Exterior of International College of Liberal Arts
Roof top garden and Japanese culture suite
On the eve of Yamanashi Gakuin University’s 70th anniversary—which will take place next year—the school has just established a new college—the International College of Liberal Arts—whose first students began the school’s inaugural semester this month (April, 2015) in a brand new building that just celebrated its opening on March 26. Toyo Ito & Associates and Shimizu Corporation designed the building and Shimizu Corporation served as the general contractor. Toyo Ito & Associates requested Nagata Acoustics to provide advice on acoustical aspects of the project and we participated in this capacity.
<< Architectural Overview >>
The new building also has a Japanese culture suite and a music room in a separate structure accessed by a ground-level passageway connected to the round portion of the building. The suite contains one wood-floor room, one tatami-mat room. This facility is intended to serve the dual purpose of bringing the international students into contact with traditional Japanese culture and providing a setting where Japanese students at the university can practice using the English language to explain Japanese culture.
<< Building Façade and Interior Classroom Highlights >>
Dining hall and courtyard garden
Classroom on the second floor
The exteriors of the two 7-story wings are clad in each facades of bright orange and green colors that produce an uplifting mood just by looking at them. The interior of the round, 2-story portion of the building has a ring of research offices around its perimeter and a core of several flat-floored, hexagonally-shaped classrooms. Most of the college’s formal classes will be conducted as discussions in these classrooms that have a shape intentionally selected to foster this learning method.
All of the interior classrooms face onto a courtyard garden at the very center of the building, adding a sense of the natural out-of-doors to all of the spaces. In addition, because the classroom walls that face the courtyard garden are clear glass, students can catch glimpses of their peers studying in other classrooms, creating the possibility of serendipitous interactions among classmates and classes. Of course, these glass walls are also equipped with curtains that can be closed when needed.
<< Sound Absorption in a Primarily Concrete and Glass Environment >>
The primary materials used for this project were concrete and glass. While the architect’s design intent surely played a role in the materials selection, I think that these materials were also selected for structural and construction efficiency reasons. From the acoustical perspective, both of these materials make it difficult to provide adequate sound absorption.
Of course, in the classrooms, research studios, study rooms, music room and Japanese culture suite of rooms we implemented sound absorbing measures on the ceilings and walls based on the planned uses of each of these spaces. In the lobby and some other very public areas, the architect intentionally wanted to leave the ceiling as exposed concrete. Because we joined the project at an early stage of planning, we soon began tackling the question of sound-absorbing interior materials that would complement the lobby’s concrete ceiling. However, finding a specific sound-absorbing material that would meet both the architect’s vision and fit the project’s budget proved difficult to do and discussions on this topic continued without resolution well into the construction phase of the project. Eventually, we found some surfaces on walls near the lobby entrance and above the doors to some research studios where we were able to install sound absorbing elements. From the perspective of a listener, I’m still wondering if the reverberation in this space is a bit much—but I believe that the sound absorption level we achieved creates a sufficiently tolerable sound environment for a lobby.
<< International College of Liberal Arts Inaugural Class >>
International College of Liberal Arts is admitting 80 students to the inaugural class. As of this writing, several dozen students from both Japan and around the world have already been granted admission and are now attending classes. Many of the school’s professors and instructors also hark from outside Japan and most of the classes are conducted in English.
The teaching methodology of the college will prioritize two-way communication between teachers and students in small class settings. All students will of course be required to live in the new dormitories. In addition to formal learning during classes, it’s expected that students will gather on their own, in small groups, to study and discuss topics of mutual interest. The new building is dotted with spaces to facilitate this kind of learning.
When students want to delve into a subject without interruption, they can make use of the study rooms on the first and second floors of the two 7-story wings. Also, the college is equipped with a wide range of high-tech gear and equipment to support a full range of academic inquiry. With views of Fuji-san rising majestically in the distance, the new college seems like the perfect place to think and learn deeply about many liberal arts disciplines. From the halls of this new college building, I look forward to the university being a springboard for many young men and women to spread their wings and take flight into myriad international endeavors.
Yamanashi Gakuin University’s International College of Liberal Arts home page can be found at http://www.icla.jp/
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