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

Nagata Acoustics News 06-02 (No.218)
Issued :February 25, 2006

Kitagata Community Center "Kirari" Opens

by Chiaki Ishiwata

<< Snow, Rain and a Full Auditorium at the Center's Opening >>

Exterior of
Kitagata Community Center
Plan of Kitagata Community Center
The Motosu-gun area typically experiences only light snow flurries during the winter months, unlike other parts of Gifu Prefecture, such as the area of Takayama and Shirakawa Village to the northeast of Gifu City, which are known for their snowy winters. In this winter season, however, the weather brought unusually heavy snowfalls to Kitagata. In particular, on December 23, a national holiday for the Japanese emperor's birthday, when the amount of snow for the season reached a new historical record.

On Kitagata Community Center's opening day, patches of the December snow still remained at some areas near the site. While snow did not fall during the tape-cutting ceremony, it was unfortunately a rainy day. Nevertheless, the community's eagerness to use its new community center showed in the large crowd of people who gathered at 9:00 in the morning for the tape-cutting, opening ceremonies and concert that followed. The inaugural day's events included an Inaugural Piano Concert by Gifu Prefecture native, Ms. Kayo Ishihara and a special stage event featuring Ms. Misuzu Takahashi, anchor announcer of the NHK Morning News Television program.

<< Kitagata's Community and Housing Reconstruction >>

The outline of Kitagata Township's borders forms a narrow shape in the northern part of a region known as Noubiheiya, which extends from southwestern Gifu Prefecture to neighboring Aichi Prefecture and includes three rivers. To the immediate east of Kitagata is Gifu City, to the northwest is Motosu City and to the south is Mizuho City. Because of its proximity to these three cities, Kitagata has grown into one of most densely populated bedroom communities in Gifu prefecture. At the same time that Kitagata Community Center was under construction, Gifu City and Kitagata Township held talks to consider merging Kitagata Township into Gifu City, but the proposal was defeated at the polls by the local community.

The Kitagata Community Center site is part of a tract of reconstruction land of 1,074 apartments built by Gifu Prefecture in the 1960s. After the land was designated for replacement construction, the first phase of the housing reconstruction project, "Hi-Town Kitagata," on the tract's southern portion, completed 430 units of housing in 2000. This apartment project built five hi-rise, multiunit dwellings designed by five women architects from Japan and abroad under the coordination of architect Arata Isozaki, and incorporated a number of innovative, modular and low-waste design approaches. Because of this public, prefecture-funded housing project's architectural innovations and its international, all-female architect team, Hi-Town Kitagata received considerable media and industry attention in Japan.

Currently, the property's northern block is in various stages of design and construction, under the combined direction of Arata Isozaki & Associates and a local architectural firm. The design work has been distributed among 21 teams of Japanese and international architects, making it another uniquely staffed effort for a publicly funded housing project in Japan. Kitagata Township added Kirari Community Center to the construction project for the northern block's hi-rise building "A," and retained Arata Isozaki & Associates to serve as architect for the community center.

<< Kitagata Community Center Hall and Other Facilities >>

The Kitagata Community Center features a 500-seat hall plus other multipurpose rooms, a ceramics studio, children's space, the Gifu Architectural Information Center and support spaces. The center's hall has a circular footprint with a 24 m. (79 ft) diameter. Above the hall's main floor seating, the hall has one balcony level and above the balcony level is a tier for technical equipment such as lighting.

The floor under the hall's main floor center seating can be lowered and raised, and this seating is attached to movable palettes that can be rearranged for different stage and seating configurations. As a result, the hall can be configured with an end stage, center stage or thrust stage.

Adjacent to the hall's entrance lobby, there is an information center about the town's unique prefecture-funded housing projects. The Gifu Architectural Information Center expects to draw visitors from all parts of Japan who wish to learn more about Kitagata's innovations in multiunit dwelling architecture.

Interior of the Hall
(left: end stage style, right: center stage style)

<< The Draped Roof, Round Hall and Our Acoustical Challenge >>

Roof shape
A striking architectural feature of the Kitagata Community Center building is the shape of its roof. The shape's design represents the results of a calculation process that started with determining the ideal shape from the structural perspective, then calculating the specific application for Kitagata Community Center. The resulting three-dimensional, undulating shape resembles the form that a single piece of cloth might take when allowed to fall and drape naturally over a frame. To build the unique shape, a reinforced concrete shell defines the free-form shape and is supported using the same truss wall construction method employed for the drape-like walls of Casals Hall and to support the ceiling of Kyoto Concert Hall.

The architectural design of the community center does not place a ceiling beneath the roof. Instead, the unique, flowing shape of the roof remains exposed to view from the interior of the hall and the entrance lobby. The interior side of the roof has been given two layers of hand-plastering in order to obtain a smooth and visually appealing surface.

In addition to the complexities of the hall's curved ceiling, the circular footprint of the hall's seating area necessitated specific attention in our acoustical design. We began our acoustical design work on the hall after nearly all of the center's architectural design decisions were finalized, including the acoustically significant ceiling shape and the hall's round footprint. Therefore, this project required us to make use of the hall's pre-determined architectural design and structural elements while achieving the client's aim of a multipurpose hall space.

<< Acoustical Design Approach and Areas of Focus >>

• Preventing Sound Focusing

Because the hall's programming did not include building an on-stage orchestral shell to create a fully demarcated stage area, and taking into consideration that the hall's expected most frequent use would be for seminars and other speaking engagements, we focused our acoustical design primarily on amplified speech in the hall and aimed to achieve an acoustical "golden mean" in terms of overall acoustical parameters. We used three-dimensional computer simulations to determine the most effective placement of the sound absorbing materials, using this design element to prevent the undesirable phenomenon of sound reflection focusing, a common problem in round-configuration halls. We located sound absorbing materials structures along the upper portions of the main seating area's circular wall, on the undersides of the balcony and technical equipment tier overhangs and also along portions of the technical equipment tier's wall that extend upward to reach portions of the hall's ceiling.

• Acoustically Transparent Rail Balustrades

The hall's design included partial walls and railings along the circumference of the hall's main seating area. In order to make this design element acoustically transparent, we created a ribbed design that looks more like a balustrade than a wall. In addition, we proactively prevented the ribbing from becoming a source of unwanted noise generation by varying the dimensions of the ribs.

• Deployable "Cloud" Reflection Panel for Classical Music

For classical music concerts, we designed a two-piece deployable sound reflection panel setup to capture and return early sound reflections to the central audience seating as well as back to the performer(s) on stage. This sound reflection panel design combines the use of a portable, free-standing sound reflection panel and a polycarbonate, "cloud-shaped," sound reflection panel suspended above the stage using an overhead stage baton.

• Acoustical Design Results

As a result of our acoustical design, there is no evidence of sound focusing in this round hall. Also, while the free-standing sound reflection panel and overhead suspended sound reflection panel produce only an extremely minimal change in the hall's reverberation time, these panels significantly impact the hall's overall stage acoustics, producing a rich sound experience.

Perhaps because of the hall's round configuration, I feel a sense of close proximity to the stage and a feeling of one-ness with the rest of the audience when I sit in this hall. Therefore, I expect that this hall will serve the needs of the rejuvenated Kitagata community well and will become a popular venue for many local events.

Changing Regulations for Public Hall Management and Operations
- Hopes, Expectations and Considerations

by Satoru Ikeda

Japan's publicly funded halls are facing a potentially momentous change in who administers and operates these facilities. In the past, Japanese law restricted the administration and operation of halls built with public funds to governmental bodies and organizations funded with public money. Now, changes in the regulations allow local governments to hire private sector companies and non-profit organizations to run their halls and community centers. In addition to affecting administrative activities at the local government level, the changed national regulations raise both questions and hopes about their impact on Japan's many cultural facilities.

<< Provisional Changes Reach a Crossroads in 2006 >>

The impacting change was written as an update of Article 244 of Japan's regulations for local governments and addresses the administration ("shiteikanrishaseido" in Japanese) of public halls and other cultural facilities. The provision aims to respond to the increasing diversity of needs in administrating and operating public facilities and the goal of making these services both more effective and less expensive. Article 244 specifically mentions public facilities that advance the welfare of the community, such as parks, as well as sports, community welfare and cultural facilities, and proposes that private sector expertise can be harnessed to improve these facilities' services and reduce their expenses. Accordingly, Article 244 adds private sector companies and non profit agencies to the list of publicly funded entities (such as public foundations and public corporations) permitted to be entrusted with the administration and operations of publicly funded parks, community centers and other sports and cultural facilities.

In addition to allowing private sector and non-profit participation in running publicly funded halls, Article 244 allows for the companies and non-profits who run the facilities to keep as income the fees charged to the public for the use of these facilities, to further outsource the facilities' operational work, and to make rules and set prices for the use of the facilities within the boundaries established by the regulations. Furthermore, the 2003 provision stipulates that, for existing facilities, the changed regulations will be effective for a three-year provisional period after which time (with the exception of facilities directly run by local governments), in September 2006, the new provisions will become accepted as permanent or the system will revert to the former, more restrictive rules.

If the new provisions become permanent, the municipal assembly will formally recognize the changes and the administrators of publicly funded cultural facilities will enter a period requiring formal reassignments and other paperwork. Whether considered from an administrative process perspective or the amount of time and effort public halls will need to spend in order to come into compliance with the changes, the switch to the new regulations will not be easy. In recent years, we see the public sector's trend towards encouraging and increasingly relying on private investment, and the 1999 Law Concerning Promotion of Public Facilities Development by Using Private Funds (PFI = Private Finance Initiative) puts into effect reliance on the private sector to plan, design, construct and operate many public facilities. Nevertheless, since this law's enactment, we have few examples of halls or theaters being conceived or built with funding that takes advantage of the PFI law's provisions.

<< The Atmosphere Surrounding Adoption of the New Regulations >>

The time when cultural facilities may permanently be required to adopt and adhere to the new regulations is fast approaching. At seminars and workshops held by organizations with an interest in these regulations, some of the topics discussed include: (1) misgivings about the level of service private companies and non-profits will deliver; (2) how to recruit and evaluate companies to perform hall administration and operations services; (3) how to screen and select a company to run a publicly funded hall, and; (4) how to evaluate the company's work performance. While one hears both pros and cons about the new regulations, in general there is also realistic movement towards adapting to the new administrative and operations landscape created by the regulations' changes.

There is also strong interest in having non-profit organizations assume the role of running public halls, as evidenced by the many Japanese websites devoted to aspects of non-profit organizations' participation in realizing the goals of the new regulations. There are websites that provide consulting support for nonprofit organizations engaged in seeking and responding to the need for administration and operations services, as well as data on the status of various halls' efforts to select their administrative and operations management companies.

Thus we see the new regulations creating both uncertainty and heightened public interest because the new regulations are creating business opportunities for profit-based local and regional businesses to run publicly funded halls, while, at the same time, they will be competing against non-profits that may be seen as more community-focused and dedicated to the goals of a cultural facility. The special nature of each hall, whether it is a vibrant facility with a successful track record of programs and attendance, and whether it is already profitable, will be factors in determining the kind of management organization the hall can attract to run it. Meanwhile, audiences, performers and others who are concerned about the quality of hall maintenance and administration worry that the quality of these services may deteriorate once the new regulations become permanent and the responsibility for hall administration passes to new hands.

Since the new regulations have only recently been adopted on a provisional basis, and halls and theaters have characteristics that require specialized expertise the conditions and circumstances surrounding adoption of the new regulations as applied to halls and theaters is particularly complex. Specifically, halls need to be managed by companies and nonprofits that can provide qualified planning staff and ways for hiring and retaining technical staff, as well as the ability to handle emergency situations and develop mid-term to long-term capital maintenance plans. In my opinion, the path forward would become clearer if we first return to an understanding of the origins of public halls, and consider their current state and role in the community.

<< Hopes for the Future Administrative Management of Public Halls >>

One question we should ask ourselves is whether the new regulations are appropriate to facilities that have highly individualized and specialized characteristics and functionalities. In answering this question, we should begin by remembering that cultural facilities such as halls and theaters have, as their very purpose, the goals of raising consciousness about the existence of the performing arts and promoting higher artistic standards. It would not be okay for these facilities to be maintained but not have performers and audience patrons using them. Compared with some past periods, the economic straits of local governments and the financial climate call for an economically sensible and efficiency maximizing approach to public policy. Nevertheless, cultural facilities are places used for education and adult lifelong learning opportunities, and they play a central role in bringing creativity and artistic endeavors into public awareness. They serve as an index of the creative and cultural level of a community. Therefore, while the new regulations are expected to succeed in bringing economic benefits through increased competition, implementing the regulations must not result in decisions for halls and theaters being based solely on how they affect a third-party organization's profits or cost containment.

Surely, profitability is an attribute we value in operational organizations. We know of publicly funded halls that appointed people with special expertise in hall management and who had excellent business sense and prioritized fiscal responsibility and budgets while providing high quality artistic performances that keep these halls operationally strong and healthy. Typically, these halls have also been supported by an enthusiastic group of individuals who consider themselves "friends" of the hall. Hall administration and maintenance spans a wide range of tasks, from servicing building machinery and cleaning facilities, to security patrols and custodial activities, to answering queries about the hall and its rental facilities, to planning sponsored performances that foster artistic creativity and involvement in the arts. However, in addition to requiring a leader with both business acumen and a vision for the hall's mission, a hall also requires a corps of individuals ready to work and volunteer at the hall. Despite the new regulations providing halls greater choice in selecting who will run the halls, we should remember that it is the people who are passionate about a hall that are its true "engine." In my opinion, one essential key to sustained hall administration and maintenance lies in finding and cultivating self-directed and devoted volunteers and friends of cultural facilities.

The people who gather at publicly funded halls, who provide volunteer support and who work at these halls need to enjoy the time they spend at the halls or the entire enterprise will miss one of the main purposes for which public halls were founded. I would like to see this vision come to fruition. Perhaps the discussions regarding the new regulations can be an opportunity for cultural facilities to shed their image of being simply physical "boxes" in favor of something more intangible yet vital.

Dr. Hidaka and Dr. Nagata Contribute to Japanese Edition of Dr. Beranek's "Concert Halls and Opera Houses"

by Satoru Ikeda

In November 2005, Springer-Verlag Tokyo published the Japanese-language edition of Dr. Leo Beranek's "Concert Halls and Opera Houses." The book carries the subtitle "Music, Acoustics, and Architecture" and is the third book authored by Dr. Beranek. The volume opens with the preface, "Which are the best halls in the world?"

This compendium examines 100 of the world's great concert halls in photographs, drawings and an explanation of each hall's architecture and acoustics, sometimes accompanied by a description of Dr. Beranek's personal experience listening to music in the hall. By simply opening this volume and turning the pages, the reader can visit the world's great concert halls without ever leaving one's own desk. Of the 100 halls presented, 12 are Japanese halls, making Japan second only to the United States in the number of halls included by Dr. Beranek.

In addition to the extensive photographs and written text accessible to the layperson, the book also contains information intended for a more technical audience. Dr. Beranek extracts acoustical parameters he considers pertinent to understanding the influence of architectural conditions on acoustical characteristics, and he uses physical acoustical data to present a systematic formulation of preferred value for each acoustical parameter in concert halls and opera houses, setting out a kind of compass that some readers may use as a methodology for room acoustical design.

At Dr. Beranek's request, the Japanese edition contains a sixth chapter authored by Nagata Acoustics Founder & Executive Advisor, Dr. Minoru Nagata. This chapter focuses specifically on Japanese concert halls and includes a historical overview of concert halls and opera houses in Japan, a summary of Dr. Nagata's approach to acoustical design and an introduction to the technology of architectural acoustical design. Dr. Nagata offers a commentary on the acoustical observations and methodology Dr. Beranek documents about the selected halls and Dr. Nagata also presents his own thinking about the sound characteristics of concert halls.

As Dr. Nagata concludes in his chapter, "Dr. Beranek's evaluation method attains a pinnacle of room acoustics research, but if this was the field's very last word, then there would be no dreams for the future in anything we write or say about concert hall sound." Concert hall acoustics is a domain with ever expanding boundaries of interest and knowledge. The Japanese edition of this hall acoustics "bible" is one book that not only acoustical engineers, but also architects, musicians and hall administrators will find full of valuable information and a worthy companion in traversing the landscape of concert hall acoustics.

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Nagata Acoustics News 06-02 (No.218)
Issued : February 25, 2006

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