News 16-08 (No.344)
Issued : August 25, 2016
A new philharmonic hall near Moscow’s Red Square
By Marc Quiquerez
New Zaryadye Park Rendering
(©Diller Scofidio+Renfro, Hargreaves Associates, Citymakers)
A new concert hall is currently under construction in the center of Moscow, Russia. Concealed under the new Zaryadye Park, Moscow Philharmonic Hall will offer more than 1,500 seats in a vineyard layout.
<< A brief history, and the background of the project >>
Zaryadye District is a central and strategic location in the heart of Moscow, along the bank of the Moscow River and a stone’s throw away from famous Red Square, St Basil’s church and Kremlin. From its early days as a trading settlement in 12th-13th centuries, the area has a long history of changes, destructions and reconstructions, and in the first half of the 20th century, it endured several planned demolitions. In the 1960’s, a vast complex was erected, Rossiya Hotel, which held the record for largest hotel in the world until the early 1990’s, before closing its doors in 2006 for complete demolition. To replace it, a first project led by Foster + Partners proposed a development with hotels as well as a symphonic concert hall and a multipurpose theater, but was later abandoned. At the time, Nagata Acoustics participated in the acoustical design of the performing arts venues.
The idea for a public park on the 13 hectares of the site publicly surfaced in early 2012, setting out to be the first new park in Moscow in over 50 years. From April 2013, an international competition was held for the urban and landscape design of this new Zaryadye Park, which will be financed in full on the city of Moscow’s budget. With the goal of creating not only an urban park but also a cultural district, the competition entries were required to accommodate a new Moscow Philharmonic Hall on the site, with world-famous conductor Valery Gergiev appointed as Artistic Director for the project and future concert hall. In November of that year, the concept submitted by a consortium led by New-York architecture firm Diller Scofidio + Renfro was awarded first prize.
Nagata Acoustics was soon solicited by Maestro Gergiev to participate in the acoustical definition of the concert hall project, but it was not until the summer of 2015 that we were officially appointed as the acoustical consultant for the room acoustics of the new Philharmonic Hall to begin the design, with Moscow-based architecture firm TPO Reserve (runner-up in 2013 park competition) serving as the designer of the hall and under project management by Mosinzhproekt.
<< Architectural and acoustical design of Moscow Philharmonic Hall >>
Nested under a glass dome near the eastern border of the park, with a landscaped artificial hill as its roof, and with foundation slabs already just about to be poured, the design of the project started with strong constraints in time, height and footprint. Through our initial studies, we were able to quickly secure the necessary dimensions to accommodate a world-class concert hall for more than 1500 seats, before developing room shape and interiors in details.
With orchestra concerts in natural acoustics as its primary program, the hall develops around a large stage area (16m in depth and 21m in width), capable of accommodating large musical ensembles of over 100 musicians, as well as smaller ensembles with choir on stage. Mechanically-operated risers will create a compact semi-circular stepped ensemble layout, and provide acoustical support. The audience in the parterre stretches towards the rear of the hall with a progressive rake, securing unobstructed sight-lines to the stage. It is divided with terrace walls carefully adjusted to effectively provide sound reflections to the audience. A dynamic ribbon-like balcony wraps around the stage and parterre, and an additional level of overhanging sloped balcony offers V.I.P. seat boxes on both sides of the hall while creating essential sound reflections back to the stage. In total, the hall will accommodate 1560 audience seats. Behind the stage, tiers are designed to seat either audience or choir singers, and can also be retracted in full with a system of drawers and lift to create an upstage extension of more than 5m. It is behind these tiers that a pipe organ will find its place.
Interior of New Concert Hall Rendering (©TPO Reserve)
Extensive computer simulations were conducted using our proprietary simulation software to carefully determine the most appropriate height and shape for the ceiling, in close collaboration with design architects TPO Reserve. From its lowest point at 15m above the stage, the ceiling gradually rises towards the rear of the hall in a stepped progression and reaches up to 21m at its highest. Three-dimensional curvatures create an even and balanced distribution of early sound reflections in the hall, essential to the acoustical qualities of intimacy and clarity, while its generous height guarantees sufficient room air volume for a rich reverberance.
Overall, the interior design of architects TPO Reserve dismisses sharp angles and straight lines in favor of curved shapes. It alternates smooth and textured surfaces, with irregularities designed to diffuse high frequency sound reflections and promote a warm sound.
<< A pure concert hall… with an orchestra pit >>
Opera Performance at Mariinsky Concert Hall (©Mariinsky Theatre)
One of the distinguishing elements of Moscow Philharmonic Hall is the addition of an orchestra pit sunk under the front of the stage and first rows of audience, capable of accommodating up to 70 musicians. Pits are most commonly found in opera houses and theaters, which also offer densely-equipped fly towers, and concert halls with orchestra pits are still a rare breed. Our first encounter with such a design came with the Mariinsky Concert Hall in St Petersburg, which opened in 2006 (as reported in our January, 2007 newsletter), and the audacious idea originally came from Maestro Valery Gergiev himself, Artistic and General Director of the Mariinsky Theatre, and initiator of the project. 10 years after its opening, evidences point to a great success, with numerous staged or semi-staged opera productions tailored for the hall every year. For the 2015-2016 season alone, 50 performances of 10 different opera productions were presented in the hall, not counting semi-staged productions. While the hall certainly cannot directly compete with a purpose-built theater and its theatrical equipments and staging flexibility, it offers a uniquely rich yet intimate visual and acoustical experience for the audience and can inspire artists in innovative ways. This makes the orchestra pit a great asset in extending the use of the hall beyond the traditional concerts, without compromising on acoustical quality. The new Philharmonic Hall aims at replicating this successful programming model in Moscow.
<< Project Progress and Status >>
Design phases are now coming to an end, and will soon be concluded by the construction of a 1:10 scale physical model for dedicated acoustical studies in the coming months, an essential step to detect and prevent detrimental echoes in such a large and complex design. But the park construction is already underway on the site. Followed by the open to the public, the completion of concert hall is scheduled for 2017.
A Talk at Nagata Acoustics by Mr. Tokio Oishi, Iwaki Alios General Manager
By Ayako Hakozaki
This past June, Iwaki Performing Arts Center Alios’ General Manager Mr. Tokio Oishi visited Nagata Acoustics’ Tokyo office and spoke to us about Iwaki Alios and the future of public halls in Japan. Mr. Oishi has 30 years of experience with public hall operations.
Mr. Oishi served as Producer for Itami Municipal Theatre’s drama productions and was in charge of production at Panasonic Globe Theatre (now, Tokyo Globe Theatre). Thereafter, he participated in the establishment of Setagaya Public Theatre and Kani Public Arts Center.
In 2004, Mr. Oishi joined a team of experts brought together to plan the theatre for Iwaki Alios, a project funded through a Private Finance Initiative (PFI). Mr. Oishi’s participation dates from the project’s inception through today. Alios’ Phase I opened in April 2008 and Alios held its grand opening in May, 2009. This year marks the performing arts center’s eighth year of operation.
The below paragraphs are a paraphrased version of Mr. Oishi’s talk interspersed with some direct quotes. My remarks appear in italics.
◆ The Evolution from “Cultural Edifice” to “Community Space with a Hall”
For Japanese regional government administrations, the public theatres and halls used to focus on these venues’ role of providing a place for patrons of the arts to gather. In addition to this role, we see an increasing need for venues that include a town square-like element where people naturally feel inclined to meet each other and casually “hang out”.
To achieve this kind of space, the activities occurring inside the venue need to be visible to people outside the venue and the space must have the openness of a town promenade or boulevard. Except for the performance space itself (the audience seats, stage and stage backstage area), we want to make the entirety of the venue easily accessible to members of the general public who are not interested in the theatre. We want these non-theatre patrons to casually come to the venue and we want to make the venue a destination where they will want to come and enjoy themselves.
One concern raised about open space at a theatre or hall venue has to do with acoustics. Sound from open space can be seen as a problem, but it’s not necessary for every part of a theatre or hall venue to be quiet. Decisions about whether to have sound isolation between adjacent rooms or whether sounds from activities in one space should be audible in another space should be a part of the acoustical design of the venue coordinated with the architectural design and the venue’s overall vision.
I heard Mr. Oishi’s comments as a request and challenge to Nagata Acoustics to consider how we can design inviting and comfortable open spaces.
◆ Venue Self-Management vs. the Designated Manager System for Public Venue Operations
One notable fact about Iwaki Alios’ operations is the city’s direct management of the venue, without contracting to a “designated management” private company.
Is the current designated manager system appropriate for the operational management of public halls? I’m not comfortable with the designated manager system when applied to a public venue. To start with, public theatres and halls are not created for the purpose of making a profit, while the designated manager system contracts venue operations to companies that are in the for-profit private sector.
Mr. Oishi spoke to us about the operational conditions he’s seen at venues that use the designated manager system.
In the current designated manager system, local governments re-negotiate their designated manager contracts with regular periodicity every few years. In recent times, local governments keep shaving expenses from their budgets and, as a result, the fees local governments are willing to pay to designated manager companies continues to be significantly reduced with each cycle of contract re-negotiation. The designated managers put strong effort into program development and it is because the venues value the programming that the venues contract with designated managers. But reducing the fees paid to the designated manager does not—in and of itself--mean that the designated manager can reduce its costs or devise a lower budget to run a venue’s programs.
For starters, trying to reduce salaries or the number of employees makes it difficult to sustain operations at all. The further result is that when budgets are reduced to the level that they only cover salary and maintenance costs, then venue programming initiatives get cut. I see the warning signs that this is starting to happen.
◆ Fewer Available Stage Technician Professionals
Mr. Oishi frequently referred to Japan’s declining birthrate and its effect on public halls and theatres, as well as how this might be addressed.
One of the impacts of the low birthrate is that finding qualified stage technicians has become difficult. At Iwaki Alios we have a program to train our own stage technicians and we recruit program participants from the local Iwaki population. We hired experienced individuals for the roles of chief and deputy chief technician for each of the stage, lighting and sound specialties and they hired young people who grew up in Iwaki to work under them and be mentored by them. Under the direction of the experienced “senpai”, the young new hires have no prior experience. They also do not have preconceived ideas or methods they need to unlearn and, therefore, they absorb the correct techniques quickly.
To spread a wider net and build the early interest of young Iwakians, Iwaki Alios runs children’s backstage tours under the title “Explore Alios” and a “Basic Stage Technical Skills Seminar”. The seminar is taught by our technical professionals and teaches the basics of each of their specialities. Many of the seminar participants are high school students who are studying the dramatic arts. One result is that from among the youth who attend these programs one young person has expressed interest in pursuing a stage technician career at Alios.
◆ Connecting with Young, Future Sustainers
I put my ear and attention to listening to what young people say about how they want to use Alios and their vision for Alios. Instead of relying on my own successes and assumptions, I strive to understand what’s coming next and to take seriously the input I receive from young people. Their values are totally different than those of my generation. It’s important to speak heart-to-heart with high school students and have a give-and-take attitude.
Mr. Oishi’s closing words about connecting with high school students continued to resonate with this author as I was preparing this article.
Iwaki Performing Arts Center Alios’ website is: http://iwaki-alios.jp/
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