News 16-02 (No.338)
Issued : February 25, 2016
Rohm Theatre Kyoto Opens!
By Nobuhiko Hattori
1st Floor Layout (Plan View)
Exterior Detail Showing Expansion Joint
Following on its September, 2015 completion of construction, the Rohm Theatre Kyoto performing arts complex held its gala opening on January 10, 2016. In this article I will introduce our readers to the complex’s spaces and the opening night’s performance.
<< Overview of the Complex >>
Rohm Theatre is a renovation and expansion of Kyoto Kaikan, an iconic work of architecture designed by Japanese architect Kunio Maekawa and originally built in 1960. In our October, 2015 newsletter I wrote about the planning and considerations involved in preserving the legacy of the original structure while expanding for current and future use. In that article I focused on how the project’s planning addressed preserving Mr. Maekawa’s architectural style and ensuring that the new and expanded structure would blend well with neighborhood buildings in this tourist destination city.
To achieve the goals related to the original structure’s legacy, the original building’s smaller hall and conference room were transformed into the new theatre building’s main façade and the original building’s main hall was replaced with a newly constructed wing that includes a 2,005-seat main hall. The smaller hall was renovated to become the 716-seat South Hall and a North Hall that doubles as a rehearsal room was added below the main hall on a basement level built as part of the new wing’s construction. Nagata Acoustics began participating in the project during the design development phase and provided technical input to the design for both sound isolation of each hall and their room acoustics designs.
<< Sound Isolation Design >>
Looking at the new theatre building from the outside, it seems to be the same Kyoto Kaikan building as before the renovation and expansion project. Mr. Maekawa’s distinctive architectural elements predominate, such as the thick band of concrete eaves that run along the perimeter of the building’s roof. The band of eaves continues along the new wing, and expansion joints camouflage the location where the renovated old wing (seen at the left in the accompanying photo) becomes the newly constructed portion of the building (on the right side of the same photo).
From the acoustical perspective, the expansion joints form a system of sound isolation between the new main hall and the adjacent south hall. In addition, the main hall is isolated from the north hall located below it through the adoption of an anti-vibration and noise isolating system. Between the main hall and the other halls we achieved a sound isolation performance level of D-70.
<< Main Hall >>
(photo copyright: Shigeo Ogawa)
With the space constraints of preserving the old Kyoto Kaikan building while using only the existing adjacent land, and the new main hall’s requirement of a 2,000-seat capacity, the architects of the new main hall decided to build a hall with 3 balcony tiers above the main floor’s audience seating. Nevertheless, the spatial design of the main hall interior keeps the sightline distance from the top balcony to the stage at no more than 30 m. (98 ft). This achievement of the feeling of proximity to the stage from even the third tier gives the entire hall a sense of intimacy not often found in 2,000-seat halls.
The side walls of the main hall’s audience seating area are made of drywall covered with gold metallic stucco applied using a traditional Japanese “sakan” hand-troweled method. Strings of LED lights embedded in the ceiling illuminate the gold color of the stucco and vertical posts clad in blue-green color creating beautiful hues along the interior walls.
The hall’s ceiling has a curved shape in order to promote sound reflections throughout the audience. The multiple balconies and technical lighting gallery at the right and left sides of the stage will produce the same acoustical benefits as would eaves on a side wall.
Based on the hall’s project programming, which identified opera performances as the highest priority, we limited the on-stage sound reflection panel system to a deployable system by Wenger Corporation and left the space above the stage available for lighting and scenery battens. When needed, the sound panels can be slid out from the side wings to the rear of the stage. For reflection panel elements on the ceiling and at the sides of the hall we developed a design that smoothly connects the stage to the audience seating area through the use of curved surfaces and eave-like wall protrusions.
When the sound reflection panel system is deployed the hall’s sound reverberation time measures 1.6 seconds (at 500 Hz, calculated for a fully-seated hall). This is a relatively shorter reverberation time than some other halls of similar scale but we nevertheless achieved satisfying levels of sound reflections. From both the sightline and acoustics perspectives, audiences will enjoy the feeling of proximity, even when seated in the upper balconies.
The hall’s inaugural opera performance featured the Kyoto Symphony Orchestra in a semi-staged production of Beethoven’s Fidelio directed by Motoi Miura, leader of the Kyoto-based theatre company. Mr. Miura’s innovative staging included having the singers enter and exit the stage from the orchestra pit and the use of a screen at the rear of the stage on which stage scenery and Japanese subtitles were projected using a rear projection setup.
For the opera’s finale, Mr. Miura had the screen removed from the stage, revealing to the audience the behind-the-scenes arrangement of the production. This kind of staging would not have been possible in the old Kyoto Kaikan. The production gave the audience a taste of the new hall’s expanded functionality.
<< South Hall >>
(photo copyright: Shigeo Ogawa)
The new theatre’s South Hall is a renovation of Kyoto Kaikan’s Second Hall and has the same intended programming uses as its progenitor. These genres include the performance of traditional Japanese performing arts genres and lecture events. The new hall’s interior design also stays close to that of Kyoto Kaikan’s Second Hall in its use of walls with raised and recessed portions and wood louvers. These elements provide sound diffusing surfaces for the room’s acoustics.
With a seat-count of 700 seats, this hall is a convenient size for amateur music recitals by members of the community as well as for professional traditional Japanese theatre performances. We kept in mind the community’s use of this hall during our room acoustics design and developed a design that keeps the sound reverberation time from being too short. To accomplish this, we used sound-reflecting surfaces for all but one portion of the hall’s walls and ceilings so that speech and non-amplified sounds are reinforced by these surfaces’ sound reflections.
This hall was inaugurated with a special Nohgaku performance entitled “The Tradition of the Japanese Mind”. In the Noh pieces “Okina” and “Yoro”, the actor wears an “okina” (“old man”) mask. In the new South Hall, the actor’s voice filled the entire hall, increasing the emotional intensity of the performance and giving the audience a truly moving experience.
This hall can be configured for music performances by using its movable ceiling sound reflection panel system that can be added above the front portion of the audience seating. The stage’s ceiling sound reflection panel is made of a silver-colored, thin, rubber sheeting material. As described in the hall’s design literature, when deployed, the sound reflection panel system floats above the stage like true stage machinery and creates a striking contrast with the abundant wood finishes of the audience seating area.
<< North Hall >>
(photo copyright: Shigeo Ogawa)
In contrast to Rohm Theatre’s South Hall, the North Hall is an entirely new addition that did not have a predecessor hall in Kyoto Kaikan. The North Hall will serve as a rehearsal space for the Main Hall and South Hall and will likely also be used for theatre and dance performance. North Hall is a black box-style theatre with a flat-floor space measuring 21 x 14 x 5 m. (69 x 46 x 16 ft). It is outfitted with ballet barres and an overhead grid of pipe battens.
As interior design, side walls and ceiling have alternating recessed and protruding sections with perforated surface backed by glass wool here and there. These surfaces promote sound dispersion in the room. In addition, we provided the ability to alter the sound reverberation characteristic of the room by installing a sound absorbing curtain that can be extended below the ceiling’s technical gallery.
The dark color of the hall’s drywall and curtains make the interior of this hall the epitome of a black box theatre. A variety of different interior ambiences can be obtained by changing the illumination of the LED lighting installed along the gallery’s perimeter on all 4 sides of the hall.
<< Theatre Complex Amenities >>
In its first month of operation Rohm Theatre Kyoto boasted a much publicized and critically reviewed line-up of performances. In addition to the 3 performance halls, the complex also houses a Starbucks and a tastefully appointed branch of the Tsutaya Bookstore chain, both of which attract local residents as well as tourists visiting nearby Kyoto sites such as the ancient Heian Temple.
Given the city of Kyoto’s penchant for tradition and the value the city places on preservation of its architectural heritage, I find it understandable that many people might have opposed the Kyoto Kaikan renovation project. Despite or because of local concerns, after 50 years as Kyoto Kaikan the theatre complex has now been reborn. I believe that—rather than leave an old hall as a relic of the past—the Rohm project chose to build a venue that answers the needs of the current era and offers an increased number of audience patrons the experience of extraordinary performances.
When the children who sang in the children’s chorus that was part of the inaugural opera become adults, I wonder if they will tell their children what it was like to perform in Rohm Theatre’s Main Hall on Opening Night. If they talk about their experience with the next generation, what will they want to convey? The daughter of the owner of an izakaya (gastropub) where I enjoyed talking over drink several times, studies ballet and told me how much she enjoyed watching the construction of the performing arts complex. Will she one day dance before audiences on the South Hall stage? When someone comes across this article several decades from now, what will s/he care about the origins and history of Rohm Theatre? When I spend time in a place like Kyoto, the topic of how we connect the past and the present is something that occupies my mind greatly.
Rohm Theatre Kyoto: http://rohmtheatrekyoto.jp/
Delving into the Details —Operable Partition Walls— Part 1: What Do Their Sound Isolation Values Really Mean?
By Ayako Hakozaki
Operable Partition Walls
How many of our newsletter readers are familiar with operable partition walls (sometimes called “sliding walls”)? In Japan, this kind of room divider is often found in the conference spaces of publicly funded exhibition halls and cultural centers. This month, and in subsequent articles, I will delve into the sound isolation performance characteristics and other aspects of operable partition wall systems.
<< Distinguishing between Operable Partition Walls and Partition Walls that Can Be Dismantled and Moved >>
Before I begin this month’s topic, I wish to clarify the difference between operable partition walls and other partition walls, such as those that are self-contained or floor-supported partition walls. While the operable and other kinds of products have similar names, there is a major difference between operable partition walls and other kinds of partition walls. The names movable and operable both imply that the partition wall can or does move, but the non-operable kind of partition wall is defined by the Japan Industrial Standards (JIS) A6512 designation as “non-bearing walls that can be installed in the interior of buildings and that can be dismantled and re-installed in other locations”.
In Japan, interior walls are often built using a light-gauge steel frame, but these walls cannot be dismantled without also demolishing them. Partition walls that comply with the JIS A6512 standard can be dismantled and reassembled elsewhere and this is the key differentiator between self-contained or floor-supported partition walls and other non-bearing interior walls. The self-contained or floor-supported partition walls are, indeed, movable. But moving them on a daily or frequent basis is not something for which they were intended. By contrast, operable partition walls are used when the setup and take down will happen more frequently. Operable partition walls are the topic of this article. It will be beneficial if readers keep in mind the distinction between this type of partition wall and the self-contained or floor-supported “movable” partition walls.
<< Importance of an Operable Partition Wall’s Sound Isolation Performance >>
Operable partition walls increase the ways in which a space can be used. Operable partitions are installed in a variety of venue applications beyond conference facilities. They are used in banquet and wedding halls, exhibition spaces and other facilities as well. In any of these or other applications, the partitions’ sound isolation performance is usually a significant consideration. In situations where the operable partitions completely close off one portion of a room from another portion of the room—splitting one room into two separate rooms—the two separate rooms will likely be used simultaneously. In this case, the sound isolation performance of the operable partition wall must be at a level that meets the needs of the events taking place in both spaces.
Most partition wall system manufacturers have products marketed as sound-isolating operable partition walls and some systems are even labeled as having a high level of sound isolation performance. I seem to be increasingly asked to consult on the sound isolation performance of operable partition systems that have been installed in specific locations. Once a system has been purchased and installed, it is late to start asking questions. Organizations and venues considering an operable partition wall system should learn what questions to ask and items to confirm before selecting an operable partition wall system. This will preclude the later unfortunate situation of the decision-maker using the partitioned space and, thereafter, asking “Why do we hear so much sound from the other side of the operable partition wall when we installed a type that was marketed by the manufacturer as sound isolating?”
<< Typical Operable Partition Wall Setup Method >>
The first item to consider is how the operable partition wall is installed and set up across the open space of a room. Typically, the partition wall panels run along a track at the ceiling. Each panel of the system slides into place along the track. To minimize gaps between the panels, as each panel is pushed against its adjacent one, sliding pressure mechanisms at the top and bottom of each panel adjust vertically to close any gaps at the top and bottom of the panel. When all of the panels of a wall have been slid into place and vertically secured, the next step is to use the integrated sliding pressure mechanism at the right and left sides of the end panels to secure the partition panels to their adjacent surfaces and thereby close any gaps at these locations.
During the process of setting up an operable partition wall’s multiple separate panels, the panels can shift and move. The purpose of the sliding pressure mechanisms is to close gaps that remain after setting up the partition wall. Nevertheless, because of the inherent nature of this setup method, it is easy for tiny gaps to occur at the sliding pressure mechanisms and between adjacent panels. Sound can leak through these gaps and, in particular, the sound isolation performance of mid-range and high octave sound can be compromised.
<< Manufacturers’ Literature on Operable Partition Systems and Sound Isolation Performance >>
To prevent sound leakage through an operable partition wall system, operable partition manufacturers develop their own mechanisms for use with their systems. In addition, manufacturers have literature that describes an operable partition wall system’s sound isolation performance properties based on testing in a laboratory. However, the information in the literature can be misleading to an uninformed person.
I decided to compare the information on sound isolation in the catalogs and other literature of a number of representative operable partition wall manufacturers. Some manufacturers provide test results for sound transmission loss based on tests in lab conditions using partition wall panels joined by caulking. Some manufacturers have test results from a lab setup that uses the system’s ceiling tracks. Other manufacturers provide test results of the product set up in a building or buildings, with the value measured being the sound pressure level difference between the rooms on either side of the partition. Some manufacturers provide data from one of these kinds of tests and others provide data from more than one kind of tests. In the following paragraphs I will discuss these testing methods.
<< Measuring the Sound Transmission Loss Value of Operable Partition Walls >>
I will begin by considering the approach to measuring sound transmission loss of operable partition walls as defined in a July, 2007 online publication of JMPA ( Japan Movable Partition Association – note that the Japanese version of the association’s name doesn’t include the word “movable”). The document, entitled “Methods of Measuring and Evaluating Sound Isolation Performance” was published as the association’s standard for this purpose.
The association’s publication relies on information about sound transmission loss in JIS A1416 (Method for Laboratory Measurement of Airborne Sound Insulation of Building Elements). The standard mentions the following 3 kinds of test setups:
(1) Test Setup of Operable Partition Wall Panels
with Caulking Added
(2) JMPA Recommended Setup
The 2 Setups Used To Test Operable Partition Wall
Sound Transmission Loss
1) A setup that tests only the sound transmission loss of the panels. The partition wall panels have caulking added to at any gaps above and below the panels, at the sides of the panels and between panels.
2) A setup that is similar to a field installation except that the ceiling rail and upper partition wall joints as well as the adjacent framing are caulked.
3) A setup that adjusts for the effect on sound transmission loss of gaps around the sliding pressure mechanisms and between panels. This setup is the same as (2) above except that caulking is also added on the faces of the sliding pressure mechanisms. (In the literature I reviewed, none of the manufacturers had used this setup so it seems that this setup is rarely used.)
Except for setup (1), the sound isolation performance of an operable partition wall system will be negatively impacted by gaps. Therefore, if we compare the 3 setups, the relative sound loss values obtained will be (1) > (3) > (2), where a higher value indicates less sound transmission. Compared with setup (1), setup (2) will have a 5-to-15 dB lower value at mid-range frequencies. The JMPA recommends use of method (2) for evaluating products.
<< Sound Transmission Loss and Sound Isolation Performance >>
The sound transmission loss values for setups (1), (2) and (3) above indicate an amount that is the degree to which the partition itself allows sound to be transmitted. Compared with the sound transmission loss value, the sound isolation performance of a space formed by setting up an operable partition wall depends on multiple factors that include the surface area and dimensions of the partition wall and the sound absorption characteristic of the space that receives the sound, as well as the structural details of the walls and floor adjacent to the partition wall and surrounding the space, and any effects of flanking transmission.
Because all of the above factors and conditions come into play in determining a specific implementation’s sound isolation performance, the sound isolation performance value will likely be smaller (not as effective) than might be assumed from the measured sound transmission loss value based on setup (2). People involved in making decisions about operable partition wall implementations should be mindful of the likely discrepancy between manufacturer claims based on setup (2) and what will be heard at a venue where multiple factors affect the sound isolation performance.
<< Considerations for Selecting an Operable Partition Wall System >>
When organizations or venues consider installing an operable partition wall system, they often begin by looking at the sound isolating products in manufacturers’ catalogs. As readers can surmise from the above discussion, this is a good time to exercise caution about the product selection.
It is worth noting that the Japanese Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism has Building Construction and Management Guidelines and that these guidelines allow single panel partition walls with sound transmission loss above 36 dB (at 500 Hz) to be classified by manufacturers as “sound isolating” partition walls. But this value means that, in practice, the sound isolation performance achieved will be less than 30 dB of sound isolation. Therefore, the designation of “sound isolating” does not eliminate concern about a product’s sound isolation performance. In order to determine if a product meets the sound isolation requirements of a specific space, it is critical to confirm the sound transmission loss and sound isolation performance data in both the manufacturer’s catalog and the technical documentation.
If sound transmission loss data for JIS’s setup (2) is available, that value can be used as the starting point for an analysis that includes the operable partition wall’s surface area, the sound absorption level in the room that will receive the transmitted (or leaked) sound and the influence of flanking transmission. When all relevant factors are included in the analysis, a decision can be made about whether the product will provide the desired level of sound isolation. If the available sound transmission loss data is based on JIS’s setup (1) (or setup (3)), it is desirable to also check the specifications of the locations where the operable partition wall system has been installed. When asked, manufacturers will usually share this information and it is well worth the effort to do this research before selecting, purchasing and installing a product.
Japan Movable Partition Association: http://www.jmpa.info/
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