Title means "Quietness", "Comfortable Sound" and "Excellent Acoustics"

Nagata Acoustics News 01-11 (No.167)
Issued : November 25, 2001

A New Pair of Traditional Japanese and Classical Western Halls in Kanazawa

by Satoru Ikeda

With the installation of the pipe organ in Ishikawa Ongakudo's classical music concert hall, this new, two-hall music pavilion officially opened its doors on September 12, 2001. On September 13, the public was admitted to view the building for the first time, and on September 14, both halls began hosting the more than 100 concerts planned in celebration of the hall's opening. The festivities will continue to March 2002. First mention among the performers belongs to Orchestra Ensemble Kanazawa (known as "OEK"), the new concert hall's resident orchestra. OEK performed the Ishikawa Ongakudo's inaugural concert, together with the Ishikawa Prefectural Symphony Orchestra and Chorus. Other scheduled concerts include OEK's regular season performances, visiting international artists and ensembles, and a pipe organ recital series. In the new, traditional Japanese hall, named Hogaku Hall, the inauguration featured performances of traditional Japanese music and dance, and bunraku ("puppet") theater. Future scheduled performances for this hall include kabuki and a chamber music series.

<< A New Cultural Events Hub for Daily and Performance Use >>

Ishikawa Ongakudo was planned in 1996 as a new hub for the arts and cultural exchange to be located near the east entrance of Kanazawa's JR railroad station. The planning requirements included the classical music concert hall, the hall for traditional Japanese performing arts (Hogaku Hall), the Cultural Exchange Square, space and facilities for its resident OEK franchise and operational space and ancillary facilities.

The architectural layout of Ishikawa Ongakudo makes effective use of the long and narrow shape of the building's site, which parallels the JR railroad tracks. The concert hall and Hogaku hall are built back-to-back and separated by a central core that provides common maintenance and office space, a delivery entrance and backstage zones for both halls. The concert hall entrance faces the eastern entrance of Kanazawa Station while, at the far end of the building, a Japanese-style gabled entrance puts a traditional face on the Hogaku hall entrance.

The building's design also takes into consideration its location as a continuation of the plaza area in front of the train station by placing the main levels of both performance halls on the second floor of the structure. This design left the first (ground) level free to be used as an open promenade accessible to the general public even when the performance halls are not in use.

The public promenade directly connects basement level facilities of the Ishikawa Ongakudo structure. On this level is a multipurpose hall, named "Interchange Hall," intended for use as a gallery and small-scale events. Also on this level are Ongakudo's Cultural Exchange Square, music practice rooms and a music reading room. The intent of Cultural Exchange Square is to provide a place for the prefecture's own artists and future artists to develop and display their creativity.

Still under construction is an underground level to the station plaza that will create another link and path between the station and Cultural Exchange Square. Y. Ashihara Architect & Associates was responsible for Ishikawa Ongakudo's design and project management.

Section of Ishikawa Ongakudo

<< Prioritizing the Orchestra as much as the Orchestra's Hall >>

OEK was founded in Ishikawa Prefecture in 1988 as Japan's first professional small-scale chamber orchestra. Now, it performs at home in Kanazawa, throughout Japan and around the world as well. The completion of Ishikawa Ongakudo brings to fruition OEK's more than decade-long desire for a concert hall it can call "home."

In Japan, while many regional governments sponsor the building of concert halls, Ishikawa Prefecture is a rare example of a Japanese governmental body spending money both on the brick-and-mortar hall and on its OEK resident orchestra. The dual focus of the prefecture's funding means that the musicians can nourish and polish their ensemble as they practice and perform in their own hall. In just 13 years, the prefecture and OEK have realized this most desirable of environments. Naturally, the new hall also includes office space for OEK, a storage room for instruments, a room to store music scores, reserved practice rooms and dressing rooms for musicians, soloists and conductors.

In addition to focusing on providing a true home for OEK, with the construction of Ishikawa Ongakudo Ishikawa Prefecture takes a major step forward to ensure the continuation of Japan's traditional performing arts. The practice and preservation of traditional Japanese performing arts as well as traditional crafts is strong in Ishikawa Prefecture, and part of what makes Kanazawa so appealing to out-of-town and international visitors. Ongakudo's Hogaku Hall, built according to traditional Japanese stage and theatrical specifications, establishes a venue where Japan's traditional dance, music and other performing arts genres can flourish and develop anew. In Ishikawa Prefecture, support for traditional Japanese performing arts dates back to the 17th century era of daimyo and samurai.

<< Utilizing the Narrow Project Site Close to a Train Line >>

The north side of Ishikawa Ongakudo faces onto the plaza outside Kanazawa Station's east exit. The nearly rectangular project site stretches approximately 147 m. (482 ft) south from this point and extends between 45 and 50 m. (148-164 ft) from east to west. In addition to the JR Hokuriku-honsen major train artery that parallels the west side of the project site, construction of a future Shinkansen ("bullet train") line is planned on land even closer to Ishikawa Ongakudo. The elevated train track on which the new Shinkansen line will arrive and leave Kanazawa Station is already built and stands just 12 m. (39 ft) from the project site, placing an added constraint on the design of Ishikawa Ongakudo's concert hall. While we knew that a shoebox configuration concert hall could be designed for the given site conditions, we also knew that one focus of our acoustical design would be attenuation of the noise and vibrations from the railways nearby.

<< The Challenge of Achieving Excellent Quietness >>

The primary sources of noise and vibration at the project site currently come from the JR Hokuriku-honsen train line and roadways in the neighborhood that provide access to the station area. In the future, we expect the addition of an ultra-high-speed Shinkansen line and the area's evolution into a new urban hub to also contribute to the site's noise and vibration levels. Because of the significant noise and vibration concerns we realized we would need to address, we began our work on this challenge at the earliest design stages of the project by investigating and measuring the noise and vibrations at the project site.

We also obtained noise and vibration measurements at other sites with similar proximity to Shinkansen train lines, so that we could take into account Ishikawa Ongakudo's known future conditions. Our analysis of the measurements from both the project site and sites that simulated our expectations about the affects of a Shinkansen train line indicated to us that the noise and vibration from the Shinkansen train line would be the most challenging for us to overcome.

Prior to completing our investigation and measurements, we thought that the noise and vibration from the ultra-high-speed Shinkansen trains might not be too large because Kanazawa is a key station at which every train will stop. However, because of the high traveling speed and car length of the Shinkansen trains, the vibration from the trains is large even at stations where they stop. The short distance between the project site and the elevated Shinkansen rail tracks meant that we could not hope for much decrease in levels of vibration at the project site. We concluded that our normal design approach of combining a floating hall structure with anti-noise, anti-vibration structural elements would be insufficient. Therefore, we decided to augment these strategies by including a full-height layer of anti-vibration material in the design of several of the foundation wall and footing.

In addition to our focus on structural design solutions to ensure Ishikawa Ongakudo's quietness, we responded to the challenging nature of the site conditions and tight project schedule by periodically testing the anti-noise, anti-vibration performance characteristics of our implemented design throughout the structure's construction. At each stage of completion, we confirmed that we were achieving our predicted levels for these parameters. The floating hall structure that we implemented primarily as an anti-vibration strategy to isolate the halls from train vibration also served the secondary purpose of sound isolation among this project's multiple halls, rehearsal rooms and other facilities, enabling us to successfully achieve quiet environments throughout Ishikawa Ongakudo.

<< OEK's New Home Concert Hall >>

Concert Hall (left) and Hogaku Hall (right)

In Japan, when a prefecture sponsors a new hall, the scale of the hall tends to be in the range of 2,000 seats. However, Ishikawa Prefecture's first requirement for its Ongakudo concert hall was that the design utilize a shoebox configuration because of this shape's reputation for fine acoustics. By approving a design that has a seat count of 1,560 seats, Ishikawa Prefecture set requirements for its concert hall that well match OEK's orchestra configuration and repertoire, and also gave us acoustically-friendly criteria on which to base our design.

The Ongakudo's shoebox-configuration concert hall is 23 m. (75 ft) wide, 54.5 m. (179 ft) long and has a ceiling height of 20 m (66 ft). It has two balcony levels, both with side balcony sections, and the ceiling has somewhat of a convex shape per the architect's specifications. Of special note from an acoustical perspective are the sound reflection panels that we located above the hall's stage.

Visually, the hall's wood interior is a feast for the eyes, as much of the wood has a "fuki-urushi," Wajima-lacquer finish. This painstakingly executed traditional lacquer-work is of a caliber equal to the wood finishes of fine musical instruments.

The concert hall's pipe organ stretches across much of the front of the hall and is designed in a shape inspired by Japanese fans. It was built by Karl Schuke Company and is a German romantic-style pipe organ with 69 stops and four keyboard rows.

The Ishikawa Ongakudo concert hall has a reverberation time of 2.1 seconds (with the hall fully occupied). During the planning for this project, Ishikawa Prefecture requested that, to the extent that we could add versatility to the hall without negatively impacting the concert hall atmosphere, the hall should also be able to be used for ceremonies, symposia and other speech-based events. To achieve this end, our design provides for a sound-absorbing curtain, on stage, that the hall can deploy when needed. When this curtain is deployed, the hall's reverberation time decreases to between 1.4 and 1.5 seconds (with the hall fully occupied).

<< Hogaku Hall: Cultivating Japan's Traditional Performing Arts >>

Hogaku Hall, designed to meet the needs of Japan's traditional performing arts, has a proscenium stage with an opening that measures 16.6 m. (54 ft) horizontally and 6.3 m. (21 ft) high. It has a turntable stage measuring 12.6 m. (41ft) in diameter (seven "ken," or tatami-mat lengths according to Japan's indigenous measuring system), and it has large, small and partial stage lifts, as well as a movable "hanamichi" ramp. (The hanamichi is a stage-level passageway positioned at the side of the audience seating and leading from the back of a theater to the stage.) This fully appointed, traditional Japanese hall is intended specifically for performances of traditional Japanese performing genres.

While Hogaku Hall's large stage has every design feature and all the equipment that any traditional Japanese performer or group might desire, the hall's audience seating is intimate. There are tatami-floored boxes on both sides of the main audience seating level and a single balcony of individual seats rings the perimeter of the main audience level. Maximum total occupancy is 691 persons, so if we consider only the seating capacity of this hall, it would be in the same range as the Tokyo National Theater's compact small hall. Hogaku Hall's stage, however, is much larger than that of the National Theater's small hall.

Hogaku Hall has a ceiling made of curved wooden planks. (The Japanese term for this traditional ceiling is "ship's bottom ceiling" from its resemblance to the inside of an inverted ship's bottom.) The walls are vermilion-stained, and Wajima- and Yamanaka-school lacquer-work are liberally in evidence on Hogaku Hall's pillars and transoms, balcony chairs and railings, making anyone who enters the hall feel as if transported to a display room of fine, traditional Japanese craftsmanship.

In designing the acoustics of Hogaku Hall, we drew upon the studies, evaluations and data we have from previous traditional Japanese Hall projects, especially the Kioi Hall project in Tokyo. These previous experiences taught us the importance of ensuring the clarity of the actors' voices and sounds of Japan's traditional instruments. Accordingly, we prioritized this characteristic as we made acoustical decisions affecting the hall's configuration and reverberation time.

Another focus of our acoustical design for Hogaku Hall was to create an environment that would be user-friendly to the many and diverse genres among Japan's traditional performing arts. Hogaku Hall will be the venue for Japanese dance and the bunraku, for traditional a cappella and accompanied singing genres, and for sankyoku instrumental trios. The wide variety spans dance and theater and instrumental music. In order to make the hall user-friendly for koto, shakuhachi, shamisen and similar instrumental performances we included simple stage reflection panels in our Hogaku Hall design. The hall's reverberation time, in a fully occupied hall, is between 1.2 and 1.4 seconds, depending on the stage set-up.

<< The Concert Hall's Inaugural Concert and Bright Future >>

Ishikawa Ongakudo's inaugural concert featured a joint performance of OEK and the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra. Listening to this concert, I was able to confirm the venerable strengths of the hall's shoebox configuration. This hall's series of opening events has just begun, and I look forward to enjoying more of the festivities and wonderful musical performances yet to come in Ishikawa Ongakudo's future.

More information about Ishikawa Prefecture Ongakudo can be found at http:www.ongakudo.pref.ishikawa.jp (in English as well as Japanese).
Ishikawa Ongakudo's address is 20-1 Showa-cho, Kanazawa City, Ishikawa Prefecture.
The telephone number is 81+76-232-8101.

Oita Prefecture's Culture Center Celebrates Third Anniversary

By Toshiko Fukuchi

A 10-minute stroll from Oita Station, past a shopping arcade, stands the three-year old Oasis Hiroba 21. This building complex of primarily commercial and office space also includes the Oita Prefecture Culture Center, the Oita Branch of the Japan Broadcasting Corporation (NHK), and the ANA Oasis Tower Hotel. As we mentioned in our first article on this building complex, in October 1998 (No. 130 in the Back Numbers), Oita's governor Hiramatsu gave the complex its name, explaining that the "Oasis" part of the name is an acronym for "Oita Asia Sekai International Square." (Sekai means "world" and hiroba means "plaza"). When I visit Japan's southern Kyushu Island where Oita Prefecture is located, I always notice how this region's close ties to Asia are reflected in the many signs that I see written in Chinese and Korean, and we can understand the Oasis Hiroba name in this light as well.

<< Visiting Oasis Hiroba for the First Time in Three Years >>

On October 2 through 5, 2001, the Acoustical Society of Japan held the meeting in Oita University, booking Oita Culture Center's "Oto no Izumi Hall" for this special event. As part of this event, I was invited to come and speak about the hall's acoustical characteristics. It was my first visit to Oita and to the hall since Oasis Hiroba's inaugural festivities.

Arriving in Oita for the first time in three years, I was forced to acknowledge that the people of Oita now live in harsher economic times. My taxi driver told me how hotels have closed and businesses have changed hands. (When Oasis Hiroba opened, the complex's hotel was a Daiichi Hotel, while now it is ANA Hotel.) But as I looked out at the visual beauty of Oita's mountain and ocean vistas and then enjoyed the delicious local seafood and sake delicacies, I knew that Oita's special appeal had not diminished at all and this realization put me at ease.

<< ...and Visiting with the Culture Center's Management >>

I used the opportunity of my speaking engagement to spend some time with the Culture Center's management and learn from them how the center's operations and activities had developed since the facility's opening three years ago. I met with Ms. Keiko Seki, a manager in the Operations Department and Mr. Shuntaro Watanabe, deputy chief of the center's halls. Both are civil service employees of Oita Prefecture.

Mr. Watanabe's former assignment was at the Oita Prefectural Arts Pavilion. He was on the pavilion's staff when I was designing the Oita Culture Center's halls. Then, he and I discussed many aspects of the physical and material attributes of the halls and their equipment needs and selection. Thereafter, he came to work at the center where he has been assigned ever since. He knows every inch of the halls' physical space and everything about their physical maintenance requirements.

Ms. Seki assumed her current position last year. She soon impressed me as a woman of many ideas and much vitality.

<< Oita Prefectural Culture Center's Two Halls >>

The main facilities of Oita Prefectural Culture Center are the 1954-seat, multipurpose hall "Grand Theater" and the 710-seat "Oto no Izumi Hall", designed primarily for the performance of music and, in particular, chamber music. Grand Theater's bookings cover a wide range from opera, musical plays, orchestra and rock concerts, to theater productions, kabuki and ballet. Many of the performances make full use of the hall's stage equipment and capabilities, validating that this hall's design objective of diverse use and versatility was right on the mark. I was told that the existence of Grand Theater has made some rock artists stretch their concert tour schedules to include a performance in Oita after their gigs in Osaka. Before Grand Theater opened, Osaka was often the most-western destination for many of these tours. I was also half-jokingly told that the first appearance of ticket-scalpers in Oita is also directly related to Grand Theater. Clearly, Oita's performing arts calendar finds plenty of ways to keep this nearly 2,000-seat hall in operation. As for the culture center's Oto no Izumi Hall, it is primarily booked for chamber music and recitals, again showing a match between actual use and the hall's design intent, but I was also told that the hall is additionally used for symposia and other speaking engagements.

<< The Center's Successful Performance-plus-lecture Experiment >>

The culture center's in-house personnel annually develop about 20 of the center's productions. These programs include diverse content and genres. One series that the culture center began sponsoring last year was renewed and expanded this year because of its strong popularity. The series combines concerts with a pre-performance lecture. Last year, when the series was first being put in place and launched, Oita Culture Center wanted to gauge audience response, so eight of its in-house-produced performances had pre-concert events. This year, the culture center says that it has switched to paired performances and lectures since last year's response have been so favorable.

For example, in connection with the September and October 2001 kabuki and bunraku productions of the classic Japanese story "Kanadehon Chushingura," the culture center scheduled an August 2001 lecture event entitled "Appreciating Chushingura." In this way, the Center provides an opportunity for audiences to learn about the content of a performance before they attend it. On this year's calendar, the culture center has used the same format for its in-house produced opera and ballet offerings, each of which has a series of three lectures scheduled.

Publicity for the performance-related lectures is minimal. They are only announced in the culture center's periodical, named "emo" (combining part of the English word "emotion" with an acronym for "Enjoy More Oita"), and on the reverse side or along an edge of flyers that advertise the related performances. Yet the lectures always fill to the maximum attendance, which the center limits to 100 persons. Depending on the lecture's featured speaker, the center sometimes charges a nominal \500, but the center tries to make as many of the lectures as possible free of charge. The lectures are held in either the center's rehearsal room or small movie hall, both of which are located on the center's basement-level.

<< Encouraging Use of the Center's Basement Level Facilities >>

The basement level of Oita Culture Center has nine other practice rooms of varying size in addition to the rehearsal room and small movie hall. The original intent of the center in offering its pre-performance lecture programs was primarily to make greater use of the basement level and increase the foot traffic there as a way of promoting use of these facilities. That the lectures have also increased attendance in the center's halls shows how a good programming idea can have more than one benefit.

<< Oita Culture Center's Website and Magazine >>

Cover of the Summer 2001 isuue of the periodical "emo"
With the rapid proliferation of Internet access, the number of Japanese halls that use their websites to distribute up-to-date information about their calendars continues to increase. Among these efforts, Oita Culture Center's website (in Japanese at www.emo.or.jp) stands out for its thorough content. The fact that the site is updated frequently has earned it a strong following of repeat visitors.

The website includes a page encouraging visitors to the site to register for the center's free, hardcopy periodical "emo." This publication, sent to readers by mail, contains engaging articles as well as information about upcoming performances and events that make one keenly aware of the enthusiasm and energy behind its publication.

Beginning with the Summer 2001 issue of "emo," the culture center implemented a new cover design that highlights the center's in-house programming activities. This is yet one more indication of the holistic approach that Oita Culture Center takes both to operating the center and connecting with the public. The summer issue of "emo" featured kabuki to showcase the performances scheduled for this autumn.

<< Additional Publicity from Nearby Media Organizations >>

Having a wide distribution network for publicity about upcoming performances is a determining factor in audience attendance, and Oita Culture Center is in an enviable situation with a branch of the Japan Broadcasting Corporation next door in the same Oasis Hiroba and a satellite station of the Oita Broadcasting System (OBS) in the same building as the center. These neighbors add media strength to the center's efforts to get out the word about the center's calendar.

<< The Shared Vitality of Oasis Hiroba and Oita Culture Center >>

On September 20, 2001 the center reached a new milestone when the 500-thousandth ticket-holder entered its Grand Theater. Undoubtedly, all of the center's programming and publicity efforts, together with the center's favorable location contributed to the hall's achieving this goal.

As I left the culture center after my interview with Ms. Seki and Mr. Watanabe, I stopped in the atrium that is adjacent to the center. The hotel and office and commercial space all converge here, so the atrium was well populated, even on this weekday afternoon.

The ambitious management of Oita Culture Center is working to develop comprehensive programs for the public space around it as well as its own facilities. On September 22, 2001, the atrium was used as the stage for the first performance by local amateurs who regularly practice in the culture center's basement-level practice rooms. It is a pleasure to learn of these activities and look forward to more inspired and inspiring new programs at Oasis Hiroba and Oita Culture Center.

Oita Culture Center can be contacted directly at Oasis Hiroba 21, 2-33 Takasago-cho, Oita City 870-0029.
The telephone number is +81-97-533-4000.
The website (in Japanese) is www.emo.or.jp

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Nagata Acoustics News 01-11(No.167)
Issued : November 25, 2001

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