News 15-10 (No.334)
Issued : October 25, 2015
Rohm Theatre Kyoto (Formerly Kyoto Kaikan) Completes
By Nobuhiko Hattori
ROHM Theatre Kyoto Exterior
East of Kyoto's city center, the Okazaki District has a feeling of being close to nature despite the neighborhood's being well within the boundaries of Kyoto City. The mountain known as Daimonji rises prominently further east, Biwa Lake Canal flows gently through the district toward Kamo River and in the spring, cherry trees blossom fragrantly along the canal the banks of the canal. Kyoto Prefectural Library (completed in 1909) and Kyoto Municipal Museum of Art (completed 1933)—both exemplars of early 20th century Japanese modern architecture—stand side-by-side with the natural surroundings in a way that truly symbolizes the ethos of Kyoto. In the past, Kyoto Kaikan was another of Okazaki District's landmarks. For the project discussed in this article, that structure underwent a major makeover. At the end of this past summer, the renovation and re-naming to Rohm Theatre Kyoto completed.
<< The Kyoto Kaikan Legacy >>
The previous structure—Kyoto Kaikan—opened in 1960. It was the second hall designed by architect Kunio Maekawa, who cut his teeth on Kanagawa Kenritsu Ongakudo (“Kanagawa Prefectural Music Hall”) in 1954 before beginning the Kyoto Kaikan project. Mr. Maekawa also designed the original Tokyo Bunka Kaikan (completed in 1961) and Hirosaki Community Center (completed in 1964), both of which recently completed their own major renovation projects.
As was true of Tokyo Bunka Kaikan and Hirosaki Community Center, by the first decade of this century Kyoto Kaikan had accumulated more than 50 years of wear and tear. The building showed signs of age and, in particular, seismic retrofit was needed. In addition, because Kyoto Kaikan was designed primarily for use as an international conference center, the old structure lacked the stage size and equipment that large-scale performance productions require. In 2006, plans began to take form to replace the old building with something new. At the same time, other voices called for the building's restoration and the preservation of this example of Kunio Maekawa architecture for its historical and cultural significance, as well as to preserve the character of the Okazaki District. Apparently much debate took place until everyone involved settled on an agreed path forward.
Ultimately, the renovation project included both new construction and preservation renovations. Primary goals of the project included seismic retrofit, upgrading to a barrier free facility and building a stage well-equipped for opera, ballet and large scale concert performances. From the preservation perspective, the main façade that faces Nijo-Dori, as well as the original conference center remain standing with comprehensive renovations and the building's former Second Hall has been renovated to become the South Hall. At the north side of the original building the project added a new wing that features the Main Hall.
<< Project Overview >>
The architectural firm of Hisao Kohyama Atelier provided the conceptual design and project oversight for the Rohm Theatre Kyoto project. Obayashi Corporation, Fujii Gumi, Okano Gumi, Kinden Corporation and Tonets Corporation formed a joint venture for the design development through project completion phases of the project.
Obayashi Corporation teamed with Tohata Architects & Engineers to produce the design development drawings and specifications. Nagata Acoustics began contributing to the project from this phase of the work.
The Kyoto-based semiconductor company Rohm Co., Ltd. purchased the naming rights of the new venue for a 50-year period at a cost of ¥5.25 billion (approx. $44 million). The naming rights contract and the amount paid caused a media stir when they were announced to the public.
I will save comments about the new venue's facilities and the acoustical design for another opportunity, but let me mention here that the project took 2 years to complete and ceremonies celebrating the successful completion took place on September 13, 2015.
<< Project Completion Ceremonies >>
The completion ceremonies began in the 700-seat South Hall. After the formal ceremony, the event attendees moved to the Main Hall where Maestro Seiji Ozawa took the stage and conducted the celebration concert. The musicians included members of Seiji Ozawa Music Academy and Chorus singers from Kyoto Symphony Chorus. Together they performed the 4th Movement of Beethoven's 9th Symphony inauguration of the new Main Hall.
On the day prior to the completion ceremony and concert, the performers played and sang the celebration concert's same program outdoors at Nijo Castle as a pre-opening event. These 2 days of concerts took place in the midst of the annual Seiji Ozawa Matsumoto Festival (OMF). The musicians and singers endured the hard schedule of beginning the OMF performances, interrupting that work to travel the 5-hour bus ride to Kyoto for 2 days of performances and returning back to Matsumoto to again appear in more OMF concerts.
<< Celebration Concert >>
Performers on Stage for the Celebration Concert
The concert began with a very cermonious atmosphere and then transitioned to the feeling of warmly embracing the audience. The players of each orchestra part introduced their instrument as they came on stage either from the stage wings or from seats in the hall's audience section. The flute players introduced themselves while playing the theme music of the Japanese TV series “Amachan”. The timpani was introduced to the audience while being carried onto the stage held on 2 sides and being played at the same time. The OMF has used this novel production for its young people's concerts and successfully reproduced it in the new Main Hall.
As I listened and watched this very hands-on entertainment by the young musicians of the orchestra and the person who announced each instrument, I felt myself relaxing for the first time since the completion of the project. The instrument-by-instrument introduction of the orchestra afforded me an excellent opportunity to hear each instrument in the hall and confirm the quality of the hall's acoustics.
Moreover, the pre-opening event of the previous evening had used electric amplification for the outdoor concert at Nijo Castle. The concert in the Main Hall provided a comparison between amplified acoustics and concert hall acoustics. I was able to listen to how a space with fine acoustics envelopes the audience in a serene and pleasing way. The contrast made me appreciate again the value and importance of concert halls and their acoustics.
<< Rohm Theatre Kyoto's Upcoming Inauguration >>
Rohm Theatre Kyoto's official opening will be on January 10, 2016 and the theatre's website already has descriptions of many concerts and programs. Seat reservation can already be purchased.
Kyoto's popularity as a tourist destination seems stronger than ever and it can be difficult to book a hotel room, especially on weekends. I encourage readers interested in attending some of Rohm Theatre Kyoto's inaugural concerts to make their plans and reservations soon.
Nagata Acoustics Inc.
Hongo Segawa Bldg. 3F, 2-35-10 Hongo
Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo 113-0033, Japan
Tel: +81-3-5800-2671, Fax: +81-3-5800-2672
1990 S. Bundy Drive, Suite 795
Los Angeles, CA 90025
Tel: +1-310-231-7878, Fax: +1-310-231-7816
75, avenue Parmentier
Tel: +33 (0)1 40 21 44 25, Fax: +33 (0)1 40 21 24 00