News 16-12 (No.348)
Issued : December 25, 2016
Shirakawa Performing Arts Theatre Hall “Cominess” Opens
By Kosuke Suzuki
Fukushima Prefecture’s Shirakawa City is known in Japan as the entrance to “Michinoku”, a poetic reference to Tohoku region rich in milestone episodes of Japan’s Edo Period and the start of the era of the Meiji Restoration. Shirakawa City was the home base of the feudal lord Sadanobu Matsudaira and the location of Komine Castle and Nanko Park, which is said to be Japan’s oldest public park which still exists today. From Tokyo, Shirakawa City is just a 1.5 hour train ride in the northeast direction.
<< Replacing a Beloved Mid-20th-Century Public Hall with A New Cultural Center >>
East Side of Cominess Exterior
West Side of Cominess Exterior
Shirakawa City had a popular and beloved public hall that the city’s residents used for more than 50 years. The public hall’s physical structure and the equipment and features of its stage had become outdated and in disrepair, and the city and its residents realized the need for an updated, modern facility. A new facility would have barrier free access and other features now considered standard for halls and cultural centers. But before 2011, no action was taken. Then came the Great Tohoku Earthquake. The public hall’s damage didn’t require that the hall be condemned, but major renovations would have needed to include seismic upgrades and action became unavoidable. The city decided to close the public hall instead of renovating it and to move its cultural facilities from the public hall to a new facility.
In the aftermath of the earthquake, the basic planning for the new facility proceeded quickly. Nihon Sekkei Inc. was hired to design the cultural center’s architecture and Taisei Corporation led the formation of a joint venture for the building’s construction. Nagata Acoustics was asked to join the project and we took responsibility for comprehensive acoustical consulting services from the design phase through project completion, including performing measurement validations of the acoustics in the completed facility. From its start, the Shirakawa City cultural center project progressed steadily to completion and opening on October 23, 2016.
On October 8, 2016--two weeks before the cultural center’s opening--Noh actors performed a ceremonial event between the old public hall and the new cultural center in which they carried vessels marked with 3 “souls”--the soul of the city’s residents, the soul of entertainment and the soul of performing arts--from the public hall to the new building. The event was entitled “Cominess--the Passing of the Souls”. Through this event, the city marked the closing of the old public hall that the city’s residents had known and used for more than half a century.
<< The Cominess Cultural Center Layout >>
Cominess Cultural Center has a Large Hall, a Small Hall and 2 practice rooms. The cultural center lies directly south of the JR Tohoku Main Line railroad tracks. The architectural layout put the Large Hall at the east side of the building and the Small Hall at the west side, with the stages of the two halls oriented towards the center of the building. Sandwiched between the 2 halls is a courtyard garden flanked on its east and west sides by backstage areas for each of the halls.
The building has 2 entrances, not counting the stage door entrance. Visitors can enter the center from the Large Hall’s entrance, which is towards the eastern end of the building in the direction of Shirakawa City Train Station. Or, they can enter on the opposite side, where there is a parking lot and the Small Hall’s entrance. The reason for 2 very accessible entrances is to encourage foot traffic and the use of the cultural center by residents on a daily basis. Both entrances provide easy access to a plaza named “Kagigata Mall” (Z-shaped mall) and the halls, dressing rooms, practice rooms and courtyard garden all face onto this plaza.
<< Noise and Vibration Isolation Strategy >>
The JR Tohoku Main Line is just about 10 m (33 ft) from the exterior wall of Large and Small halls. Therefore, sound and vibration isolation from passing trains was an essential and critical aspect of this project. This train line services more cargo trains than passenger trains, making the need for an effective strategy especially important, because cargo train noise and vibration was exceedingly large at the site.
Our noise and vibration isolation strategy included installing a layer of elastic material underground in the space between the railroad tracks and the building. In addition, we specified box-in-box structural design for both Large and Small halls.
As a result of this two-pronged strategy, when a train passes by the cultural center, it can only be detected in the halls when they are totally empty and quiet. When halls are in use, passing trains would not disturb the use of the halls at all.
<< Large Hall >>
(Photo Courtesy: Mr.Hiroyuki Fukunishi, Nihon Sekkei Inc.)
Small Hall (Inaugural Ceremony)
Practice Room 1
Practice Room 2
The 1,104-seat Large Hall seat has a proscenium stage and acoustics designed to be a multipurpose hall with the emphasis on fine acoustics for non-amplified music concerts. We provided a movable sound reflection panel system for use during non-amplified music concerts and this system can be stored away to transform the hall into a space for any kind of performance that uses sound amplification equipment.
The proscenium opening has a height of 12 m (39 ft). We designed the shape of the ceiling so that the sound reflection panel system transitions smoothly to the ceiling above the audience seating area. The first floor seating accommodates 735 persons, including 8 parent-child viewing room seats. The balcony has 369 seats. The balcony protrudes the first floor seating at the sides of the hall. This configuration gives the shape of the first floor audience seating a narrowed width to maximize the supply of very early sound reflections to seats in the center of the first floor audience seating area. For the Large Hall’s side walls, we specified a finish surface of textured ribbed panels made of wood to soften the sound reflections in the space.
<< Small Hall and Practice Rooms >>
The 321-seat Small Hall is designed primarily for chamber music and recitals. It can also be configured as a multipurpose room for other kinds of events. To enable use for diverse kinds of events, the Small Hall’s first floor has deployable theatre-style seating as well as stackable chairs that can also be stored away to use the hall’s flat floor as an open space. Side balconies on both sides of the hall provide additional audience seating.
The Small Hall has a box shape and, excluding its side balconies, dimensions measuring 12 m (39 ft) wide x 25 m (82 ft) long x 10 m (33 ft) high. The hall’s ceiling is smooth and integrated from the stage to the audience seating and we implemented exposed technical galleries with thin materials sound can pass through so that they do not distract sound reflection paths in the hall.
The side wall of the stage is a 3-part, rotatable wall. When closed, this wall serves as a sound reflecting surface. When rotated 90 degrees, the wall panels become stage wings and the stage takes on a proscenium configuration.
To prevent the walls, floor and ceiling of the hall from generating flutter echoes, walls and ceiling are unevenly angled. In addition, to support the versatile use of the hall, we installed retractable sound-absorbing curtains along the walls of the balconies and at the technical gallery level. The curtains enable the hall’s reverberation characteristic to be adapted for the needs of various events.
For the acoustics of the practice rooms, we focused on different priorities for Practice Room 1 and Practice Room 2. We designed Practice Room 1 for rock band practice that includes the use of amplifiers and drum sets. In Practice Room 2 we applied a more multipurpose approach that includes mirrors on the walls for ballet and drama practice as well as music practice. Practice Room 1 is located adjacent to Practice Room 2. To ensure that these rooms can be used simultaneously and also to prevent the sound of Practice Room 1 from disturbing activities in other parts of the building, we implemented box-in-box structure for Practice Room 1.
<< Inaugural Events >>
On October 23, the opening day of Shirakawa City’s new cultural center, the events began with an opening ceremony in the Small Hall followed by a concert in the Large Hall featuring violinist Yasuko Ohtani and a string ensemble. I had the pleasure of attending the inaugural ceremony and the concert, as well as the October 30 performance of the Hungarian National Philharmonic conducted by Fukushima-born Maestro Kenichiro Kobayashi in the Large Hall.
Through my attendance at these events I experienced at first hand the acoustics in both halls. The Small Hall has clear and natural-sounding acoustics and the Large Hall’s acoustics sounded warm and rich to my ears. More important than my personal impressions on the halls was the opportunity to experience how citizens of Shirakawa-city reacted in these events. When an MC asked questions from the stage, members of the audience heard the question clearly and the MC could hear audience members’ energetic replies. When the performances ended, I heard resounding audience applause and saw a standing ovation for the Hungarian Philharmonic. I was very pleased to see that the new cultural center is well on its way to being as popular and beloved as the old public hall it replaced.
Cominess Cultural Center has been open for 2 months. Both the Large and Small halls’ calendars are packed with events and reservation days, and times for use of the practice rooms seem to be filling up rapidly.
In March 2017 there will be a performance of The Magic Flute in the Large Hall. I am eager to attend this event and other offerings on the Cominess calendar. The calendar and other information about the cultural center can be found at its website (only in Japanese).
Shirakawa Performing Arts Theatre Hall “Cominess”: http://www.cominess.jp/
New Black Box Theatre in Manila
By Dr. Keiji Oguchi
In late November 2016, I visited Manila to participate in meetings for the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) expansion project’s new black box theatre. The new project is part of a master plan that will greatly expand and augment the current CCP, which opened in 1969.
<< Architectural and Acoustical Highlights of the Current CCP Building and Theatres >>
Cultural Center of the Philippines Exterior
(Photo Courtesy: CCP)
Cultural Center of the Philippines Main Theatre
For 47 years since 1969, the CCP has served both the Manila and other Filipino communities. It is the home venue for 9 resident performing arts companies, including drama companies, music ensembles and dance companies. In addition, the CCP serves as the home base for performing arts outreach activities throughout the Philippines.
The CCP was designed by Filipino architect Mr. Leandro V. Locsin. The building’s concrete structure has a notably unique design of large spatial volume and a feeling of weightiness and presence that nevertheless appears to float in the air.
The facilities inside the CCP’s current structure include a 1,821-seat Main Theatre, a 421 seat Little Theatre and a black-box style Studio Theatre with movable seating. The acoustical firm of Bolt, Beranek and Newman (BBN) served as the acoustical consultant for the 1969 project, under the direction of Dr. Leo Beranek, who just recently passed away in October of this year at the age of 102.
Both the Main and Little theatres have ceilings and side walls finished with a mesh material. Behind the mesh, BBN installed means of adapting each hall’s acoustics to suit the needs of multiple performing arts genres.
One of BBN’s archetypal room acoustical designs was the use of suspended, cloud-like sound reflection panels such as the firm implemented at the Tanglewood Koussevitzky Music Shed. BBN used this same approach of multiple elliptical-shaped suspended sound reflection panels in the CCP Main Theatre. In this implementation, the reflection panels are suspended above the mesh ceiling and can be seen through the ceiling’s mesh material. Each panel can be adjusted independently to suit a performance production’s acoustical needs.
<< Observations from Touring Manila Theatre Venues >>
As part of the current project team’s itinerary during the November gathering, both before and after the formal meeting sessions, we visited a number of theatres in the Manila area. The venues we observed included a small theatre in a shopping mall, where the mall’s ambient noise negatively impacts the space, a medium-size theatre designed for use with amplified event and the newest Manila venue—a large theatre that employs Meyer Company’s digital Constellation acoustic system. This theatre is part of a casino complex.
By visiting these theatres I experienced a first-hand understanding of the depth of popularity in the Philippines for the theatre genre and performing arts staged in theatres. In addition, I learned about the typical building materials and methods in general use. I noticed the uncomplicated and reasonable approach to stage rigging system and many other aspects of the current installations. This knowledge will be of benefit to me as I work on this project.
<< The CCP Expansion Project and the New Black Box Theatre >>
Planned New Black Box Theatre
at Cultural Center of the Philippines
(Artist’s Image Courtesy: LVLP)
CCP has a large area of land measuring 1,500 ha excluding an existing convention center, hotel and theme park, all on landfill at the south side of Manila Bay. The current, 1969 building is located in the eastern quadrant of the available land. The plans of the expansion project (part of a master plan) that were the reason for the November meetings focused on one theatre among the facilities that will be built on the CCP land. Those facilities will include performing arts and cultural facilities as well as related offices, residential housing and retail spaces.
Thanks to a generous donation by Mr. Ignacio B. Gimenez, the design of a new black box theatre has already begun as the first phase of the expansion project. The architectural design of the new Performing Arts Theatre complex, including the new black box theatre has been entrusted to Leandro V. Locsin Partners, the firm of the current CCP building’s architect. The project’s stage consultant is Ms. Maree Barbara M. Tan-Tiongco.
The new black box theatre will have a maximum of 300 seats and be designed for drama and dance performances. Nagata Acoustics will serve as the acoustical consultant, with responsibility for both the architectural room acoustics and noise control and sound isolation.
During my November visit the project team shared ideas while touring Manila’s theatres. The stakeholders are keen to have a space where not only the seating can be flexibly arranged, but where scenery and the sets can also be freely conceived and built, with a configurable rather than fixed direction to the overall space.
Construction on the building shell of the black box theatre begins within the 2016 calendar year and the schedule to complete is by the end of 2017. We are working swiftly on the many decisions and specifications needed to meet this schedule.
I wish to acknowledge that Nagata Acoustics’ participation on the CCP project is supported by a grant from the Japan Foundation. For more information about the Cultural Center of the Philippines, please visit its website.
Cultural Center of the Philippines: http://culturalcenter.gov.ph
Delving Into the Details —Operable Partition Walls—
Part 3: Sound Absorbing Finishes
By Ayako Hakozaki
In my February, 2016 and April, 2016 articles for the “Delving into the Details” series, I wrote about the sound isolation performance of operable partition walls. In this third article I will introduce readers to the less-known topic of sound-absorbing finishes for operable partition walls.
<< When Is A Sound-Absorbing Finish on Operable Partition Walls Desirable? >>
If I were to ask what kind of space typically uses operable partition walls, for many of us, large conference rooms and hotel banquet halls would come to mind. Conference rooms usually have carpeting on the floor and sound-absorbing panels made of rock-wool or a similar material on the ceiling. Many conference hall projects do not include the services of an acoustical consultant to study the space and recommend a room acoustical design and it’s fair to say that sound-absorbing wall finishes are usually not part of conference room interior specifications. Examples of conference rooms that have operable partition walls with a sound-absorbing finish are even less common.
This situation is the norm despite reports of speech intelligibility issues in typical large conference rooms. By comparison, starting about 10 years ago, the use of operable partition walls with sound-absorbing surfaces in hotel banquet halls has increased.
Conference rooms and banquet halls are usually designed with a rectangular footprint. As the ceiling height of such a space increases, it’s not unusual for the sound-absorbing surfaces of the floor and ceiling to become insufficient for the sound-absorption needs of the overall spatial volume. Especially in banquet halls that have ceilings more than 5 m (16 ft) above the floor, and where the interior design makes it difficult to cover the entire ceiling with sound-absorbing material, the room can easily lack sufficient sound absorption.
Also, because rectangular spaces have parallel walls and because, in conference rooms and banquet halls the walls tend to be sound reflecting surfaces, the juxtaposition of the walls has the tendency to generate flutter echoes, with the resulting situation that the room’s reverberation is perceived as even longer than it is. In addition, when the tail of echoes produced in the room is a certain persisting length, the phenomenon becomes uncomfortable for listeners.
In conference rooms and banquet halls, clarity of speech is a priority. Nevertheless, when these rooms’ side walls and operable partition walls have sound sound-reflecting surfaces, both of these can be the reason that attendees in the room have difficulty understanding what is said during speeches and presentations.
<< Specifying Sound-Absorbing Finishes and Special Considerations for Operable Partition Walls >>
An interior fabric is used as the sound absorbing finish.
(The fabric specified for the operable partition wall matches
the specification for the nearby side walls’ finish.)
An interior fabric is used as the sound absorbing finish.
(The portions of the panels that are handled when moving
the partition walls have a hard-surface finish instead of the
fabric and there is a kickplate at the bottom of each panel.)
Perforated metal is installed in front of sound absorbing
glass wool panels. (Many options for finishing surfaces
exist for use in front of the glass wool layer.)
The sound-absorbing finish for a room’s operable partition walls can be selected and specified to both deliver acoustic goals and match the interior design of a hotel’s banquet hall. Adding a sound-absorbing finish involves the matching fabric on the surface with a sound-absorbing materials such as glass wool (GW) or molton and affixing the resulting layered material to the operable partition walls. The use of a matching interior fabric enables the appearance of the operable partition walls to blend with the other interior design elements in the room. Examples 1 and 2 show this type of implementation.
In conference rooms and spaces for other purposes, the finish layer may be an acoustically transparent material, such as perforated board or a perforated metal sheet that is placed in front of the glass wool. Or glass wool may be encased in an attractive, thick glass cloth. Example 3 shows a perforated metal sheet used as the finish surface.
In considering an implementation that uses fabric or glass cloth that is a soft and flexible material, it is beneficial to keep in mind the durability of the portions of the operable partition wall that will be held when moving it, as well as the lower portion of each panel that may be more prone to getting soiled or damaged. To enhance durability, these parts of the operable partition wall can be fitted with hardwood or metal hardware to protect the appearance of the operable partition wall. Example 2 shows this kind of implementation.
Another item to consider when implementing a sound-absorbing finish on operable partition walls is storage space. The addition of the sound-absorbing material increases the thickness of each panel so it is essential to take storage space availability into consideration during the decision-making process.
When owners of banquet halls and conference rooms that have operable partition walls without sound-absorbing finishes consider adding sound-absorbing finishes to their operable partition walls to improve the clarity of speech in their facilities, they sometimes learn that their limited storage space creates a constraint on the feasibility of this improvement. I think it would be worthwhile for design teams of these kinds of spaces to consider adding sound-absorbing finishes to the operable partition walls during the initial design of the spaces.
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