Quietness, Comfortable Sound and Excellent Acoustics NAGATA ACOUSTICS

News 11-12 (No.288)

Issued : December 25, 2011

[ Japanese Version ]

Kansas City's New Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts Opens

By Dr. Yasuhisa Toyota

KCPA exterior
KCPA exterior

Kansas City, Missouri's cultural life welcomed a major new addition to the city on September 16 and 17, 2011 when the new Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts (KCPA) hosted its Gala Opening concerts. The center's major funder, the Muriel McBrian Kauffman Foundation gave the center its name, but I've often thought how appropriate it is that the initials "KC" of KCPA can refer to both Kauffman foundation and Kansas City. In Japan, a theatre and hall of this scale would most likely be a public works project, joint public and private project or, more rarely, funded by a corporation. It would be almost unheard of for an individual's foundation to be the primary source of funding for a project of this scope. However, the United States has a long history of this kind of project being funded by private philanthropy.

<< The Project's Steady Course in a Down Economy >>

The center's 1,800-seat, proscenium-style theatre and its 1,600-seat classical music concert hall make the new KCPA a truly large-scale, major cultural facility. The total project cost of some US$415 million (including an operating endowment) provides quantifiable substantiation of the scope of the project and the scale of the new center. KCPA's scale and cost have been a focus of media attention.

With the world currently weathering numerous economic crises and the U.S. situation likewise not immune, various projects have been abandoned, put on hold or scaled down. In this environment, the completion of the large-scale KCPA project as originally planned became a newsworthy topic. The New York Times' article about the center's opening devoted several paragraphs to a discussion of the economics of funding arts facilities in the United States. Other key U.S. media also took this approach in their reviews.

<< Kansas City's Culinary and Cultural Delights >>

If you pinpoint Kansas City, Missouri on a map of the United States, you will see that it's located more or less in the middle of the country. If I think of a corresponding part of my home country of Japan, I'd liken this central location to that of Nagano Prefecture, except that Nagano Prefecture has enough mountains to have hosted a winter Olympics while Kansas City has none. The aptly named Great Plains extend as far as the eye can see.

Kansas City is known especially for its dairy and beef industries. The restaurants in Kansas City serve some of the most delicious beef steaks I've ever eaten. Also, regardless of the kind of cuisine, the high quality of the meals served in this city's restaurants far exceeded my expectations. From a Japanese perspective, the appeal of typical U.S. west-coast destinations lies in attractions other than their restaurants. The culinary attainments of Kansas City's restaurants are so far above the ordinary that I'd say they rate "off the charts" in excellence compared with my experiences in most other U.S. cities where I've traveled and worked.

Does a city's wonderful restaurants mean that the city's other cultural offerings are also a cut above the norm? Kansas City is home to three professional performing arts companies, Lyric Opera of Kansas City, Kansas City Ballet and Kansas City Symphony Orchestra. These three companies draw their audiences from among the two million people who live in the city's metro area that includes both the city and surrounding suburbs. Kansas City proper has a population of about 500,000 people. In terms of size, Kansas City's population ranks it as a typical U.S. Midwestern city. The presence of a professional opera and a professional ballet company, as well as a professional symphony orchestra in a city of this size surely attests to the city's vibrant cultural life and commitment to the arts. Now, with the addition of KCPA's two halls as the cultural hub of this city, Kansas City's performing arts venue infrastructure may well make it the envy of other cities of similar size, at least as far as the performing arts are concerned. All three of Kansas City's professional performing arts companies will be resident at KCPA, using it both as their home venue for subscription concerts and for rehearsals as well.

KCPA theatre
KCPA theatre

<< KCPA's Gala Opening Events >>

KCPA's two main facilities, the Muriel Kauffman Theatre (the 1,800-seat proscenium-style theatre) and Helzberg Hall (the 1,600-seat concert hall) each held a gala opening on consecutive evenings. First, the theatre held its opening performance on September 16, 2011, followed by the hall's opening concert on September 17. Banquet dinners for audience patrons followed both evenings' performances. (In particular, tickets to the September 16 theatre opening included dinner invitations for all 1,800 patrons.) The two nights of all-evening affairs rivaled the style of inaugural event programming one would expect at the opening of a major cultural venue in a more well-known "destination" urban center. Specially priced tickets for the theatre's opening night ranged from $1,000 to $5,000 a seat (and from $500 to $3,000 for the concert hall's opening). However, ninety percent of these ticket prices were designated as tax-deductible donations to the theatre's and the hall's ongoing operations.

KCPA concert hall
KCPA concert hall

On both Opening Gala nights, the programs featured world-renowned performers certain to please everyone in the audience. Placido Domingo, Tommy Tune and Patti LuPone were featured performers on the theatre's opening night. Itzhak Perlman and Diana Krall were the top-billed names for the concert hall's opening evening. Kansas City native Bobby Watson and his Jazz Orchestra gave virtuoso performances on the afternoon of September 17. The theatre's opening included performances by the resident Lyric Opera and Kansas City Ballet companies and, of course, the resident Kansas City Symphony was featured prominently on both nights' programs, impressive performing in both the theatre and concert hall.

<< Music at the Gala Opening and Helzberg Hall's First Subscription Concert >>

The inclusion of pops, Broadway musical tunes and jazz seem to be essential programming elements for the opening galas of concert halls in the United States. It's not unusual for a special producer from outside the hall's or orchestra's organization to be brought in to produce this kind of one-time milestone celebration. The resulting variety-packed, popular emphasis of opening gala programs also seems to be an unavoidable part of the birth of new concert halls.

For KCPA's theatre, the opening gala's programming gave the audience an opportunity to hear this acoustically multipurpose venue's functionality, some of its performance characteristics and how the theatre can be adapted to a variety of performance genres and needs. However, as the concert hall's acoustical consultant, I unabashedly share that my preference would have been for the Helzberg Hall's gala opening to devote its program to the kinds of symphonic and orchestral music for which we designed the hall. Acoustically speaking, it may suit my perspective better to think of the concert hall's inaugural concert as taking place a week later when the Kansas City Symphony Orchestra performed its first subscription concert in the hall. I will leave to another occasion to report on Helzberg Hall's acoustics during this and other performances.

Kumamoto Shintoshin Plaza Building Opens at Kumamoto Station

By Satoru Ikeda

Plaza Hall
Plaza Hall

March, 2011 was an eventful month in Japan. The terrible earthquake, tsunami and nuclear reactor damage from the Great East Japan Earthquake made headlines day after day and left an aftermath of grief, pain and dislocation that still has many people in its clutches. Perhaps because of these crises, the completion of the Kyushu Shinkansen high speed rail line on Japan's southern Kyushu Island received little media attention.

<< The New Kyushu Shinkansen Line and Kumamoto Station Area Renovation >>

In conjunction with this new leg of the Kyushu Shinkansen Line, a number of new construction and renovation projects recently completed at JR Kumamoto Station. The new high speed rail line required the construction of a new train station and a plaza at its west entrance as well as the construction of a new east station entrance, east entrance plaza and several buildings in the immediate neighborhood.

Other projects in the vicinity of the train stations continue toward completion. These include work to raise the existing train line to an overhead line, build a new station for the elevated line and renovate other nearby structures and infrastructure. The area looks as if it will be busy with construction projects for some time to come.

<< The Kumamoto Shintoshin Plaza Public and Private Joint Renewal Program >>

On land across from the Kumamoto Station east entrance, joint city and private investment developed a renewal program that includes the Kumamoto Shintoshin Plaza building. Kumamoto Shintoshin Plaza opened on October 1, 2011.

The renewal program's site borders a street that runs parallel to the street car. When completed next spring, there will be three new structures: the Kumamoto Shintoshin Plaza building that houses retail and office space in addition to public facilities, another building solely for retail and office space, and a high-rise apartment tower. The soaring, 35-story apartment tower already dominates the sky in front of Kumamoto Station. The 6-story, mixed-use Kumamoto Shintoshin Plaza and a pedestrian deck that connects its second floor to the entrance area of JR Kumamoto the station completed and opened in advance of the other two buildings' completions.

<< Kumamoto Shintoshin Plaza Building Floor Plan and Project Participants >>

On the second floor of the new Kumamoto Shintoshin Plaza building, the city conveniently located a tourism and local information center so that visitors to the city will have easy access to this resource when they arrive by train to Kumamoto City. The building's third and fourth floors have a public library and a municipally-run business support center. Plaza Hall is located on the fifth and sixth floors.

Physically and metaphorically, Kumamoto Shintoshin Plaza puts a new and welcoming face on this gateway to both Kumamoto City and the entire Kumamoto Prefecture. The building's convenient and prominent location will help it achieve one of the building's main goals of becoming a hub for the exchange of information, knowledge and ideas.

RIA Kyushu Branch designed and built Kumamoto Shintoshin Plaza under a design-build agreement. Nagata Acoustics served as the project's acoustical consultant for the room acoustical design and sound system design of Plaza Hall, sound isolation and anti-vibration designs, and related implementation management during the project's construction phase.

The building's Hall Zone, located on the top two floors, includes the 489-seat Plaza Hall and a multipurpose room designed with floor space that matches the size of the hall's stage. The multipurpose room can be used as a rehearsal room among other purposes. In addition, four conference rooms are located on these floors.

<< Plaza Hall's Multipurpose Hall Programming >>

Plaza Hall is a multipurpose hall with a proscenium stage, a flat floor and movable seating. The stage has a sound reflection panel system that can be stored out of sight when not in use. The hall can be used for a wide range of events, such as symposia, panel discussions, conferences, small-scale ensemble concerts and plays.

When the hall's design phase began, the initial plan called for a convention-style hall space that would achieve the programming goal of a venue for the exchange of information, knowledge and ideas. But as the project's decision makers thought about the benefit to the city's residents of a multipurpose facility in this very convenient location, they decided to revise the original concept so that the hall can be used for more diverse purposes. The implemented design includes a tall fly tower above the stage, a high ceiling overall and a sound reflection panel system. These elements enable the hall to serve as a venue for diverse performances and event types.

<<Highlights of Plaza Hall's Sound Isolation Design, Acoustics and Interior >>

In our sound isolation design for Plaza Hall, we aimed to keep sound produced in the hall from being audible in the public library and other spaces on the floor directly below the hall. We also aimed to keep sound produced in the hall from being audible in the high-rise residential tower on adjacent land. In addition, because we anticipated loud sound volumes from music rehearsals and other activities in the multipurpose room adjacent to Plaza Hall, our design needed to isolate Plaza Hall's interior from sound produced outside the hall. To achieve these ends we adopted an anti-vibration and sound isolating structural design for both Plaza Hall and the multipurpose rehearsal room.

Our room acoustical design for Plaza Hall began with the underlying principle that the hall must provide user friendly functionality across a wide range of performance and event types. We applied this principle consistently, including with regard to the elements of the design that maximize the hall's acoustical characteristics for small scale classical music concerts.

The residential use of the adjacent high-rise tower created a height constraint for the Plaza Hall building, because we needed to ensure that the Plaza Hall building does not block adequate sunlight to the tower's units. We developed a room configuration within both this constraint and the project's budget limitation, achieving a hall footprint that measures 16 m. (52.5 ft) wide by 30 m. (98 ft) deep, and a ceiling height of 8 m. (26 ft).

Inspired by Kumamoto's verdant woodlands, Plaza Hall's interior uses motifs of leaves and trees combined with abundant use of wood paneling on the side walls. The side walls have a slightly angled tilt that was implemented at our request for because perfectly parallel walls can cause undesirable acoustical phenomena and diffusion effect of sound. With the hall's acoustical panel system in place and the proscenium stage curtain, the hall's reverberation time measures 1.2 and 0.9 seconds (with a full audience, at 500 Hz).

The completion of the Kyushu Shinkansen Line on Kyushu Island connects Japanese Islands from east to west. It is my hope that this transportation connection will come to symbolize the light and warmth of the west spreading increasing light and vitality throughout Tohoku district of east region.

Kumamoto Shintoshin Plaza's Web site can be found at http://stsplaza.jp/.

Towards a Practical Application of the Panels with Slits Technology for Sound Absorption

By Dr. Keiji Oguchi

Some years ago, I introduced readers to a new kind of sound-absorbing panel technology that hides the panels' perforations from view and absorbs sound across a wide range of frequencies. (See our April, 2003 newsletter.) This technology uses a new design that has a perforated layer in front of a glass wool which is covered with a visible outer layer of long, narrow strips that create slits. The perforated layer and the outer layer of slits each form resonators. Tuning a resonance frequency of the perforated layer at low-middle frequency and that of the slit layer at the high frequency is enabling us to achieve more complete sound absorption across a broad range of frequencies.

Photo 1: Sound-absorbing slits on a classroom ceiling
Photo 1: Sound-absorbing slits
on a classroom ceiling

Characteristics of sound absorption using panels finished with the slit technology
Characteristics of sound absorption
using panels finished with the slit technology

Photo 2: Freestanding sound-absorbing panels that use the slit technology
Photo 2: Freestanding sound-absorbing panels
that use the slit technology

<< Sound-absorbing Panels Using Slits on both Outer and Inner Layers >>

The use of an inner layer with slits also works with resonator types other than the perforated sound-absorbing panels mentioned above. This past November, in the Nagahama primary school renovation project that completed in Hamada City, Shimane Prefecture, the ceiling design used sound-absorbing panels that have slits on both the inner and outer layers. The wood laminate inner layer has slits instead of perforations and is overlapped with a thin, visible wood laminate strips with slits, which hide the slits of inner layer from view (stacking-slit). 600 mm. (24 in.) sq. of stacking-slit panels are installed on the center portion of each classroom's ceiling so that the direction of the slits alternates from panel to panel to form a checkered pattern on the ceiling, as shown in Photo 1.

On the upper side of the inner laminate panels, non-woven glass fiber sheet that serves as the acoustic resistance material has been glued and, even without adding a layer of glass-fiber wool, this arrangement achieves a better than 0.5 sound absorption coefficient. The total surface area covered by the panels measures 35 sqm. (115 sqft.) per classroom and the implemented solution is intended to achieve the room-acoustical guideline specified in the Architectural Institute of Japan's "Academic Standards and Design Guidelines for Sound Environment in School Buildings".

By the way, in each classroom, the ceiling area above the teacher's desk is angled to reflect the teacher's voice toward the students. Also, the installed sound-absorbing ceiling panels as well as many other elements of the renovated school building use locally sourced wood from Shimane Prefecture. The natural wood surfaces create a warm and simple atmosphere in this primary school's interior.

Nagata Acoustics used the same kind of panels with slits on the walls of our Tokyo office's main conference room.

<< Freestanding Sound-absorbing Panels with Slits >>

A company in Shimane Prefecture designed another product that uses the panels with slits technology. The product combines a layer that forms slits with a perforated panel layer. The resulting material is used to manufacture freestanding sound-absorbing panels, as shown in Photo 2.

In this application, the thin strips of wood are overlapped directly on the perforated panel. The design hide the perforations from sight and also hide the support pieces that hold the wood strips in place. The result is a handsomely finished, free-standing sound-absorbing panel.

The Shimane Prefecture manufacturer is currently preparing for commercial production of these sound-absorbing panels.

Nagata Acoustics Inc.

(Tokyo Office)
Hongo Segawa Bldg. 3F, 2-35-10 Hongo
Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo 113-0033, Japan
Tel: +81-3-5800-2671, Fax: +81-3-5800-2672

(LA Office)
2130 Sawtelle Blvd., Suite 308
Los Angeles, CA 90025, U.S.A.
Tel: +1-310-231-7878, Fax: +1-310-231-7816

(Paris Office)
75, avenue Parmentier
75011 Paris, France
Tel: +33 (0)1 40 21 44 25, Fax: +33 (0)1 40 21 24 00

E-mail: info@nagata.co.jp

[ Japanese Version ]