News 17-08 (No.356)
Issued : August 25, 2017
Long-Awaited Ota City Civic Hall Opens
By Nobuhiko Hattori
In Gunma Prefecture’s Ota City, the city’s new civic hall opened in March, 2017 and the first performance in the civic hall’s 1,501-seat multipurpose Main Hall took place in July. A full 10 years had elapsed from selecting an architect’s design proposal in 2007 until the long-awaited civic hall’s opening and its first events.
<< The Project’s Long Road from Concept to Completion >>
In Japan, the first thought that comes to mind when we hear mention of Gunma Prefecture’s Ota City is the motor vehicle manufacturer Subaru Corporation. The first time I visited Ota City for this project, I arrived at the Tobu Train Line’s Ota Station and saw the large Subaru manufacturing plant spread out on a tract of land that began near the front of the station. I must admit that as I looked at the vehicle manufacturing plant, my mind did not equate this city with a vibrant music scene.
So it was certainly news to me to learn that Ota City has an Ota Arts Academy where, in recent years, much effort has been devoted to performing arts education and training for children. In this Ota City, the idea of a new cultural destination was a very exciting concept and plans for a new civic hall took shape with this goal in mind. The city had a previous civic hall that was built in 1969 and closed in 2009 because of the building’s deterioration from decades of use. In 2006, the basic concept for constructing a new civic hall began to take shape. In the following year, the city selected an architectural design proposed by Hisao Kohyama Atelier. However, from this point forward, the project encountered a number of twists and turns that delayed its implementation. In 2008, the project had progressed to having the architect’s drawings ready, but the city’s mayor decided that seismic retrofitting of the city’s elementary schools took priority in the municipal budget over the building of a new civic hall. Construction of the civic hall was put on hold.
In 2011, the project began again, albeit with a change of both scope and location. Thereafter, the location changed a second time to the site where the new civic hall was eventually constructed and the design was able to be finalized. Construction by the contractor Kanto Constructive Industry Co., Ltd. began in 2014.
Nagata Acoustics’ participation on the project spanned the project’s entire 10 years. We provided acoustical consulting services for the original architectural designs and continued as the acoustical consultant through the project’s completion and post-completion acoustical measuring activities.
<< Overview of the Facility >>
Street View of Civic Center Exterior
1F Floor Plan
The civic hall building has a Main Hall, a studio that can also be used as a rehearsal room or a small hall. In addition, there are 2 multipurpose rooms that can be used either as conference rooms or music practice rooms. We adopted anti-vibration and noise isolating structural designs for each of the studio and multipurpose rooms to achieve effective sound isolation between adjacent rooms. Uncharacteristically for Mr. Kohyama’s architectural designs, Ota City Civic Hall features an exterior skin of exposed concrete. Complementing the concrete are deep-colored, cast aluminum panels that—together with the concrete—give the building a heavyset appearance. By contrast, in the building’s interior, the skylights, plethora of openings to the out-of-doors and use of openwork brick walls create the impression of very light-filled spaces.
<< Main Hall Room Acoustic Design: Brick Walls >>
Stacked Brick Wall in Main Hall
Hall Audience Seating
The Main Hall is a multipurpose hall with 2 balconies above its main level seating and a total of 1,501 seats. A defining interior design characteristic of this hall is the use of bricks for almost all of the hall’s walls. In response to the architect’s proposed use of brick for the Main Hall’s walls, we added requirements to promote sound diffusion of the entire sound spectrum from low to high frequencies by using bricks with a variety of small, medium and large pitting and protruding textures. We also specified that the bricks be stacked in a randomized pattern because the evenly-spaced edges of an aligned stacking might produce undesirable, abnormal sound phenomena.
After considering several design iterations, the custom brick wall design we implemented uses 3 sizes of bricks. The bricks are angled out from the wall in the vertical plane and staggered like a series of waves. In addition, to maintain consistency of appearance between the side walls and the Main Hall’s rear wall, we designed an openwork brick pattern backed by glass wool for the portions of the rear wall where our room acoustics design required the use of sound absorbing material. This design adaptation continues the use of the brick walls from the sides to the rear of the hall.
Around the Main Hall’s stage we installed sound reflecting panels with surfaces made of random-periodicity wood ribbing. Our intention in implementing this material was to use the fine surface variations of both the wood ribbing and the bricks to bring soft sound reflections to the front rows of the hall’s main audience seating.
<< Main Hall Room Acoustic Design: Skylights >>
Another especially notable feature of the Main Hall is the 3 skylights in the ceiling above the main audience seating. We designed the ceiling above the audience seating with a curved shape that reflects sound to the entire audience. Installed between sections of the hall’s ceiling, the skylights bring natural light into the hall and the natural light gently wafts across the brick side walls.
The inclusion of skylights in the Main Hall’s room acoustic design is a design feature from the earliest days of the Ota City Civic Hall project. In considering this element of the architect’s design, we gave particular attention to sound isolation from external noise. To ensure the desired level of sound isolation performance, we installed double layers of glass in the opening of the roof slab. In the portion of the ceiling above the main audience seating area, we installed a single layer of glass.
<< Studio Room Acoustic Design >>
The studio is a flat-floored space with 2 tiers of technical galleries around the perimeters of the upper walls. The project programming for this space includes using it as a rehearsal hall for events that will be performed in the Main Hall and, also, for music recitals and similar small hall performances. The studio has a nearly rectangular shape and its walls are finished with narrow-width wood paneling. The room has a white ceiling composed of several sections installed at specified angles.
To facilitate the studio’s use as a multipurpose space, we dispersed sound-absorbing elements in various locations on the ceiling, at the stage area and on the walls at the height of a seated audience. Along the walls of the 2 technical gallery tiers we installed retractable, sound-absorbing curtains to enable adjustment of the room’s sound reverberation characteristic.
We selected narrow-width wood paneling for the studio walls. Interspersed with the wood paneling, the walls have louver-like, slot openings placed in a row. These elements serve as the studio walls’ indentations and protruding elements. In appropriate locations behind the paneling and the slots, we installed glass wool for sound absorption.
While the studio ceiling appears to be entirely white drywall, a portion of the ceiling surface is actually sound-absorbing. To achieve a ceiling that is partially sound-absorbing yet gives the appearance of a single, smooth surface, we made use of a specially fabricated product. The product has a layer of glass wool that attaches to the ceiling and a sprayed-on plaster finish that faces the interior of the room. We selected this product both because it doesn’t have the appearance of a sound-absorbing material and because it blends seamlessly with the drywall of the rest of the ceiling. When looking up at the ceiling, the human eye sees no difference between the drywall portion and the sound-absorbing portion of the ceiling.
<< Ota City Civic Hall Opening >>
The March, 2017 Opening Ceremony of Ota City Civic Hall included a choral performance by children who attend Ota Arts Academy. As I listened to the children singing, I felt as if the pristine clarity of their voices washed away all of the vicissitudes this project encountered during its long years from start to finish.
At the end of the Opening Ceremony, as I returned to Ota Station for my trip home, I saw people gathered at the entrance of the Ota Art Museum & Library. Like Ota City Civic Hall, the museum and library are located near the front entrance of Ota Station and, also like the civic hall, the museum and library completed construction of a new facility around the same March, 2017 timeframe. I wish the residents of Ota City many years of enjoyment and cultural enrichment from these new facilities and I look forward to hearing about the flourishing of music and other arts genres in Ota City.
The Ota City Civic Hall website URL is http://www.otacivichall.net/
The Repino Hall (“Gergiev’s Villa”)
By Dr. Yasuhisa Toyota
As I began to write this article, I thought back to June 25, 2010. My wife and I, joined by another couple who are friends of ours, were vacationing in Russia’s St. Petersburg. We chose this time of year to coincide with the Stars of the White Nights Festival, an annual St. Petersburg event during May and June. The festival includes concerts at Mariinsky Theatre Concert Hall, a Nagata Acoustics project we completed 4 years prior, in November 2006 (and featured in our January, 2007 newsletter). We looked forward to enjoying the State Hermitage Museum by day and the many performance offerings at the Mariinsky Theatre and the new concert hall by night—a brief vacation steeped in luxury and the arts.
<< Maestro Gergiev’s Realized Vision for the Performing Arts in St. Petersburg >>
Fast-forward to 2014. The Mariinsky II Opera House has opened and St. Petersburg has nightly offerings across the two opera houses and the Mariinsky Theatre Concert Hall. During the Stars of the White Nights Festival, the program includes a dazzling number of programs. It’s not unusual to have the choice of 3 or even 4 different festival performances on any given date. Opera performances often last past 11:00 p.m. and, when you leave the opera house at that time, the sky is still waiting for twilight to arrive. Truly, these are evenings when one cannot sleep—or perhaps—when we rightly ask “Do I want to take the time to sleep?”
When Valery Gergiev first came to the helm as artistic director of the Mariinsky Theatre, before the concert hall was built and when the Mariinsky Theatre was the one, sole opera house, he spoke of his dream to build a performing arts complex where the highest quality productions and performances would be staged nightly for audiences gathered from all over the world. He referenced New York’s Lincoln Center, but his vision was grander and, by 2014, he had realized his goal. Now, the annual Stars of the White Nights Festival offers an unrivaled lineup of programs and virtuosity. For classical music lovers such as me, Maestro Gergiev’s achievement makes me want to make an annual St. Petersburg “pilgrimage” to savor the performances.
<< The Morning The Repino Hall Project Began >>
Maestro Gergiev Speaking to Musicians in The Repino Hall
Now, back to the story of my 2010 St. Petersburg vacation. After the arrival of my wife and our friends, I received a brief phone call from Maestro Gergiev. He told me that he’d hired a car for me for the next morning, that he wanted to discuss something and that the car would pick me up to bring me to visit him.
The next morning, without knowing the destination of my ride, the purpose of the consultation or at what time I might return, I left my wife and friends at our hotel and took the car that came for me. I was the only passenger and the driver spoke only Russian. He drove me to a destination that was about one hour away from the hotel, a resort area named Repino on the Gulf of Finland. The road from St. Petersburg to Repino hugs the coastline in the northwest direction. The feeling of the area might be compared to that of Japan’s Karuizawa.
Upon arriving at the intended destination, I saw that Maestro Gergiev was waiting for me. (If my memory serves me correctly, this was the first time I was in a situation where the maestro waited for me to arrive and there’s never been that situation in the years since then.) In short order and mostly dispensing with pleasantries, the maestro began explaining that he had acquired some real estate in Repino and wanted to build a chamber music hall and guest house. He continued that he wanted to create a place to educate more talented young musicians and that he wanted world-class guest performers who come to the Mariinsky Theatre to also come to Repino and spend time with the young musicians in an academic setting. The more the maestro explained his idea, the more he embellished it. He wanted the chamber music hall to seat an audience of 100 to 150 people, but he also said he wanted it to seat as many people as possible.
Then Maestro Gergiev said, “I leave the acoustics up to you.” When I heard him say this, I also began my own dream with my own embellishments of what we might build. This would not be a publicly funded project, but, instead, a totally privately funded project, and this spurred the pace at which our ideas progressed.
<< Highlights of The Repino Hall Acoustical Design >>
Plan in Main Floor Level
Plan in Balcony Level
I knew that if we limited The Repino Hall audience seat count to between 100 and 150, it would be difficult to design room acoustics that would support an even slightly large ensemble. The site in Repino was not expansive enough to build a larger spatial volume horizontally, so I decided to design the hall with a tall ceiling and thereby achieve the abundance of spatial volume that I desired.
For the class of halls that have 100-to-150 seats, the ceiling is usually not more than several meters high. A hall with this number of seats that has a 10 m. (33 ft) would be considered to have a significantly high ceiling. I wanted to aim for an even greater abundance of acoustics and—in the end—achieved a 12 m. (39 ft) height ceiling for the hall. Visually, the space may look less like a chamber music hall and more like a mini-cathedral.
True to his word, Maestro Gergiev did not raise any concerns during the room acoustics design process and I am profoundly grateful for his total trust in me. Rather, Maestro Gergiev took interest in the tall ceiling I designed and expressed the desire to use it to give the hall the greatest number of audience seats. In response, I added 2 balcony levels to my original design. As a result, The Repino Hall has about 500 audience seats in total.
<< The Project Schedule, Construction and Opening >>
The project began in 2010 and we expended a significant amount of time on both the design and construction phases. The hall opened in May, 2017. Neither Maestro Gergiev nor I could wait until construction completed to hear music in the hall, so in December, 2016 we invited a number of violinists and cellists to come play in the hall and test its acoustics for the first time, even though there was still scaffolding in the hall. When we heard the beautiful acoustics fill the tall-ceilinged space, we knew the project was a success. My impression of the hall was like being inside a musical instrument—the entire room resounded and filled with sound. Maestro Gergiev likewise was beside himself with happiness and showed exuberant joy. He officially named the hall “The Repino Hall” because of its location. We who worked on the project affectionately refer to it as “Gergiev’s Villa”.
On May 31, 2017, The Repino Hall held its official opening. The timing coincided with the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum and many politicians and dignitaries were invited to the event. A 35-piece orchestra opened the evening with Debussy’s Prélude à "L'après-midi d'un faune. The program then continued with piano and violin solo performances. In particular, the audience was treated to a solo violin performance by Daniel Lozakovich, the rising star virtuoso who had just turned 16 years old. Maestro Gergiev also delivered a strong message to the audience in which he shared his hope that young musicians will proactively come and use The Repino Hall.
Nagata Acoustics Inc.
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