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

Nagata Acoustics News 98-5iNo.125j
Issued : May 25, 1998

Harmony Goryokaku Geijutsu Hall Opens in Hakodate City

by Satoru Ikeda

Exterior of Harmony Goryokaku Geijutsu Hall
The port city of Hakodate, on Japan's northern Hokkaido Island, is one of Japan's most picturesque travel destinations. It is also a city with a rich history, including the area of Goryokaku. The grounds of Goryokaku are a parcel of land shaped like a five-pointed star, where a European-style castle was built in the second half of the 19th century. (The word "goryoukaku" means "five-sided figure.") The castle is no longer standing, but a moat and the grounds form a magnificent testimony to Japan's rapid modernization and "Westernization" in the late 1800s.

In this historic part of Hakodate City, the new Harmony Goryokaku Geijutsu Hall recently opened its doors for the first time on May 9, 1998. The beautiful greenery of the Goryokaku historical site is also home to the Hokkaido Museum of Art and a museum dedicated to the theme of the northern oceans and surrounding lands. Now the new Harmony Goryokaku Geijutsu Hall nestles between them, adding a venue for the performing arts to this cultural quarter of the city.

<< Overview of the Planning for Harmony Goryokaku Geijutsu Hall >>

The planning for Harmony Goryokaku Geijutsu Hall began in 1994. Two years were spent gathering local opinions and requests concerning the new structure and its purposes and goals. In 1996, a master plan for the hall was finalized and construction begun. Built according to plan, the structure features a multipurpose hall seating an audience of 600 - 800 persons, with acoustics geared toward musical performances, but well capable of being used for theatrical presentations and other performing arts. Harmony Goryokaku Geijutsu Hall also houses a rehearsal hall, practice rooms, and exhibition space.

In addition to the plan for a performing arts structure, plans were added to create a community plaza that would encompass the two museums and the new hall, establishing a "Cultural Zone" rich in natural beauty and with a feeling of openness and the great outdoors. While the earliest ideas for the hall began as a concert hall -- or, more precisely, as a kind of junior version of the city's well-used multipurpose Hakodate Shimin Kaikan Hall, the vision of the people of Hakodate flowered into a more innovative expression of local creativity and the birth of a new focal point for the city's artistic and cultural life.

The architect for the project was Sato Sogo Keikaku and Hakodate Kensetsu Keikaku Kanrijigyo Kyodo Kumiai. Shimizu Construction was the main company in charge of construction, in which a total of 16 contractors and other vendors participated.

<< Harmony Goryokaku's Exterior and Interior Layout >>

The finish of Harmony Goryokaku's exterior -- a light earth color -- and the facility's oval shape complement Goryokaku Plaza's two existing museum structures superbly. Entering the new building from its main entrance on Tokiwa Street, the visitor is welcomed by an entrance hall that leads to a cafe on the right and a tunnel-like entrance to the science and historical museum on the left. Proceeding straight ahead, one finds an open mall. A descending staircase leads to the lower level, where the rehearsal room, gallery/studio, and two practice rooms are located.

The rehearsal room shares a wall with an open gallery area. Half of this wall is made of glass, giving the rehearsal room an airy, expansive feeling. The versatile gallery/studio has a half-oval shape and comparatively generous dimensions. The two practice rooms were constructed to ensure high performance levels in terms of sound insulation.

The entrance to the main hall is at street level at the right side of the central mall area. Inside the entrance to the main hall, a lobby provides space for hall visitors to mingle and wait.

<< The Main Hall's Chameleon Personality >>

Proscenium Stage Style
Concert Hall Style
At first glance, the main hall may appear to be a smallish multipurpose hall fit with a balcony and proscenium stage. However, due to our ingenious design, this multipurpose hall can "change hats" to become a concert hall with a stage designed especially for musical performances and a concert hall's sense of connectedness between the audience seating and the performers' stage. The metamorphosis for concert performances is accomplished by setting stage reflection panels near the extended front part of the stage and the proscenium, and by the special design of the side walls which enable the stage to take on the appearance of a concert hall's open stage. Even though the metamorphosis is totally and easily reversible, visitors who first see the hall in its concert hall state marvel that it can be transformed into a multipurpose hall.

The fundamental concept of the hall's design is to begin with a concert hall's open stage configuration and add to it both a proscenium and a fly tower that can house a quantity of hanging theater apparatus truly satisfactory for theatrical productions. The issues of concern with halls of this design are the loss of seating in the concert hall configuration and the achievement of good sight lines when the hall is in its multipurpose set-up. In my successful proposal advocating the adaptable design, I stressed that it would enable us to come closest to the ideal acoustics and ambiance of a concert hall. I also clearly emphasized the attention that I would give to upgrades for the proscenium stage as well as special flooring for the front portion of the stage, carefully designed stage wings, and innovative seating placement, ensuring a balanced approach to the multipurpose uses of the hall.

2F Plan
1F Plan
While encapsulated in the building's overall oval shape, the hall's multi-sided shape more closely resembles the star-shaped Goryokaku grounds than the building's exterior. In order to achieve effective early reverberations, I adopted a half-cross-section configuration. Perhaps it is because the configuration of the side walls of the audience area were designed to enhance the hall's acoustics, but when viewed from a seat in the audience, the hall does not appear to have the multi-sided shape that is evident in its specification drawings. Other concert hall features include a stage with appropriate dispersion level and wood panel finishing throughout the walls surrounding the audience. The paneling imbues the hall with the calm, inviting atmosphere of a concert hall. In this way, I sought and achieved an architectural configuration, spaciousness, and ambiance appropriate to the room's role as a concert hall.

At the same time, my design maximizes the hall's adaptability to multipurpose uses. Certainly, one can name numerous other examples of proscenium-style halls designed to serve equally well as concert halls. Dr. Nagata's Tokyo Bunka Kaikan's Large Hall is one of the most notable halls of this type. Among such examples, I believe that Harmony Goryokaku ranks with those halls that demonstrate an extra-strong effort to achieve both true concert hall characteristics and a well-functioning proscenium theater stage.

Set up as a concert hall, Harmony Goryokaku seats 712 persons; in its proscenium stage set-up, the audience seating increases by 130 seats to 842. Above the nearly rectangular-shaped main floor seating, a single balcony level encircles the main floor seating area on three sides. Having seating near the stage and a stage that juts out into the audience increases the proximity of the performers to the audience. The visual as well as acoustical intimacy of the space is enhanced, as well as the sense of presence. When set up as a concert hall, with reflection panels in place and the hall empty, the reverberation time of Harmony Goryokaku is 1.9 seconds; in its proscenium set-up, also with no audience, the reverberation time is 1.5 seconds. Both of these values are excellent results for their respective intended purposes.

<< A Tight Post-construction Schedule and Satisfying Inauguration >>

In this article, I have focused thus far on the configuration and interior characteristics of the facility's main hall. Of course, Nagata Acoustics also provided acoustical expertise for the sound insulation of both the rehearsal and practice rooms, and to ensure concert hall standards of quietness in the main hall as well. In addition, we planned the electrical acoustics design, including the proscenium and side speakers of the large hall.

But perhaps the extremely short time-frame from the structure's end of construction to its official dedication and inaugural performances is more memorable to document here than the hall's electrical acoustic specifications. Only three weeks were allotted from the last day of construction to the dedication day, and thereafter, I had only one month to complete the fine-tuning. Luckily, the opening-day inaugural concert featured rather low-key planning that included the usual ceremonies plus performances by, first, local artists in a piano and violin duet, then top-class Japanese piano, string ensemble, and wind ensemble performers in a program entitled, "The Classic Concert." There were no international prima donnas to worry about and, I am glad to report that the new hall proved itself worthy of its role as a concert hall.

Throughout the rest of the month of May, the hall's full schedule showcased its versatility as a multipurpose hall. Expectations are high for the hall to fulfill its mission as Hakodate's focal venue for day-to-day performances by local cultural organizations and clubs of a broad spectrum of performing arts. Harmony Goryokaku is excellently positioned to accomplish this goal because its planners differentiated it in both size and functional characteristics from the Large Hall of Hakodate City's Shimin Kaikan. I look forward to seeing Harmony Goryokaku find its niche in this city that offers so much to both residents and tourists. Ideally, in addition to being a wonderful venue for artistic performances and the creation of works of performing art, Harmony Goryokaku will also be added to Hakodate's already long list of destinations people want to visit simply for the enjoyment of experiencing them. Be it the Hakodate Ropeway or the city's main athletic facility, which is having its electrical acoustics redesigned, Hakodate is in the midst of new growth, and Harmony Goryokaku will certainly be a bright star in the city's future.

(For specific information about Harmony Goryokaku, please contact the hall directly by mail at 37-8 Goryokaku-cho, Hakodate, Hokkaido, Japan, or by phone, at 81-138-55-3521.)

Nagata Acoustics News 98-5iNo.125j
Issued : May 25, 1998

Nagata Acoustics Inc.

E-mail: info@nagata.co.jp

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