News 16-07 (No.343)
Issued : July 25, 2016
Nagano City Arts Center Opens
By Chiaki Ishiwata
The celebratory banner at Nagano Train Station
Inauguration ceremonies for Nagano City Arts Center were held on May 3 and a Grand Opening Concert followed on May 8, 2016. The concert featured the world premiere of an orchestral work commissioned by the new Arts Center and composed by the center’s Artistic Director and native son, Mr. Joe Hisaishi. Mr. Hisaishi took the baton in hand and served as Maestro for the inaugural performance played by the Yomiuri Symphony Orchestra.
The month of May typically brings both spring weather and tourists to Nagano City. In the bustling Nagano City Train Station, the city proudly displayed a banner announcing the Art Center’s opening to both local commuters and visiting tourists.
<< Project Overview >>
A diagrammatic representation of the center’s layout
Nagano City Arts Center is part of a project that renovated 2 old and adjacent government properties: the old Nagano City Civic Auditorium and the Nagano City First Municipal Office Building. The renovation project’s design combined the Arts Center and new municipal office building into a single campus on a base isolation structure--a design that enhances earthquake preparedness. In addition, the combined campus used only the land of the former civic auditorium.
The Arts Center and municipal office building share a ground-level entrance to the combined campus on the west side of the property. This entrance opens to a central, public courtyard that separates the west and east buildings. The open-air courtyard bears the name “The Garden called NIWA (NIWA means a garden in Japanese)”. The building housing the Arts Center’s Main Hall stands at the east side of The Garden.
The structure at the west side of The Garden is a multi-story building with the second floor comprised of offices arranged as a “one stop shop” lobby that gives easy access to the needs of Nagano City residents. Upper floors of the building have additional municipal offices and the top, eighth floor has the city assembly’s chambers.
In addition to the east building’s Main Hall, the campus has other performing arts spaces. A Recital Hall is located on the second basement level as well as an area named the Creativity Support Area that has rehearsal and practice rooms. The campus also has a theatre named Act Space in the central part on the third floor.
The joint architectural team of Maki and Associates and Nagano Sekkei designed the campus. Nagata Acoustics provided acoustical design and consulting services for the spaces in the Arts Center and the Nagano City Assembly’s Chambers.
<< Main Hall >>
Main Hall audience seating seen from the stage
The Main Hall has a seat count of 1,292 seats and is designed as a multipurpose hall. The hall’s first floor has a rectangular footprint and the single balcony tier has a curved shape that surrounds a portion of the first floor.
The Main Hall has an interior design theme visually inspired by the vistas of local mountains. Panelling made of chestnut wood sourced from within Nagano Prefecture is installed with a textured finish along the side walls of the audience seating and continuing along the side walls of the stage. Sound reflection panels form an orchestra shell around the sides and rear of the stage, completing the room acoustic design that delivers rich acoustics and a sense of unity between the performers and the audience.
<< Recital Hall >>
The Recital Hall has a seat count of 293 seats and is a specialty hall designed for the performance of non-amplified classical music. The hall’s room acoustic design features include a ceiling height of 10 m. (33 ft) and the three-dimensional surface design of the walls around the audience seating. To promote sound diffusion, the walls around the audience seating rise from the floor as a three-dimensional surface that looks like pleats and becomes an upper portion of randomly patterned Japanese maple (“kaede”) ribbing.
<< Act Space >>
Act Space is a flat-floored small theatre with a trap door in the stage and cellar below. This theatre boasts a technical gallery across the entire ceiling, both above the stage and above the floor where roll-out seating is typically located. The space can be used for drama and dance performances as well as a wide range of other performances and events.
From the acoustics perspective, we took into consideration both the importance of clarity of speech and the volume of sound in the space. To produce very early sound reflections we specified sound reflecting materials, extruded cement panels for the lower portions of the side walls.
<< Creativity Support Area >>
The below-grade Sunken Garden provides natural light to the large rehearsal room on the basement level. The rehearsal room has square footage equal to the performing area of the Main Hall’s stage. The wall between the rehearsal room and the Sunken Garden is entirely glass, making the room a light-filled space despite its below-grade location. To maximize the ways in which the rehearsal room can be used we installed retractable sound-absorbing curtains.
In addition to the rehearsal room, this basement level truly deserves its Creativity Support Area name. It has numerous practice spaces. Two rooms are intended for non-amplified music practice. Three rooms are designed for bands and other ensembles that have drum sets, amps and similar instruments or equipment that produce large volume sound. There is also a practice room for dramatic arts and an atelier that can be used for a variety of creative efforts.
<< Sound Isolation >>
As described above, the Arts Center offers a full complement of rooms for a range of performing arts activities. For all of these activities to take place harmoniously in overlapping time frames, we focused attention on developing an effective sound isolation design.
Because of overall space limitations it would have been difficult to obtain sufficient sound isolation by distancing the 3 halls, rehearsal and practice rooms from each other. Instead, we designed each of these spaces except the Main Hall with anti-vibration and sound-isolating structural designs. We adopted a floating floor solution for the atelier.
In addition to being concerned about the proximate locations of rooms, we also considered the noise and vibration impact of train lines in the vicinity of the project site. The Kita-Shinano Train Line runs nearby on tracks at ground level and the Hokuriku Shinkansen Bullet Train passes not far from the site on elevated tracks. The Main Hall’s location is just 20 m. (66 ft) from the closest train tracks, so our initial acoustic design planning included a measurement of noise and vibration at the project site.
The result of our measurement revealed that noise and vibration levels from passing Shinkansen trains is fortunately small, but that the noise and vibration from the regular trains that run on tracks set directly on the ground were less acceptable. We needed to pursue a noise and vibration sound isolation strategy as part of our acoustics design.
With regard to addressing vibration, we predicted that the excavated space under the campus for the system of seismic base isolators would reduce the transmission of vibrations from nearby trains. For noise isolation, inside the concrete-surrounded fly tower we added a layer of sound-isolating panels separated from the concrete surfaces by an air layer that also serves as the space for HVAC system. Because the Main Hall is outfitted with large amounts of machinery and equipment, it was a benefit to the project that we were able to devise effective vibration and noise isolation strategies without implementing a vibration and noise isolating structural design specifically for the Main Hall.
<< Opening Performances >>
In the days following the Grand Opening Concert in the Main Hall, Act Space was inaugurated with the theatrical work KENJI in a production that included performers recruited from among local residents and the Recital Hall’s opening concert featured a recital by Nagano-born pianist Takashi Yamamoto.
In July, the newly formed Nagano Chamber Orchestra began a concert cycle of all Beethoven symphonies performed in the Main Hall. The lecture series “Music Comprehension for Adults” and a variety of outreach activities by the Arts Center are also now in full swing. I’m sure that great things are in store for Nagano Arts Center’s vibrant future.
The Nagano City Arts Center website can be found at https://www.nagano-arts.or.jp/
A Concert at Jiyu Gakuen's Myonichikan
By Ryoichi Wada
At the end of June I attended a concert held in Lounge Hall of Jiyu Gakuen’s Myonichikan (literally, “House of Tomorrow”). The architecture of this Japanese Important Cultural Property was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. In this article, I will share some highlights from my experience.
Myonichikan is located in Tokyo’s Ikebukuro district, a 5 to 10 minute walk from JR Ikebukuro Station. From the station, I passed through Ikebukuro’s bustling commercial and nightlife-filled streets until the neighborhood changed to the more serene residential neighborhood where Myonichikan stands. Jiyu Gakuen was founded in 1921 as a secondary school for girls. Today, its curriculum spans all of K-12 and a junior and 4-year college as well.
<< The Myonichikan Venue >>
Jiyu Gakuen School’s Myonichikan (“House of Tomorrow”)
Myonichikan was designed by the iconic modern architect Frank Lloyd Wright. When Wright left Japan to return to the United States, he entrusted the remainder of the project to his Japanese protégé Arata Endo. Mr. Endo designed parts of the building and saw the Myonichikan project through to completion in 1925.
The building’s exterior welcomes people with an inviting appearance that emphasizes horizontal lines in a very human scale. This aspect of the design is combined with window treatments that have a multiplicity of diagonal lines and a geometric design. The use of geometric design is repeated in the indoor furniture also designed by Wright. Details of the building’s doors seem inspired by the transoms often seen crowning traditional Japanese sliding doors. It is indeed an attractive and distinctive interior.
Myonichikan is designated as a Japanese Important Cultural Property and is also recognized by the international organization Docomomo as an historic building. Myonichikan is now open at set times to the general public. In its more than 90-year history, Myonichikan has been renovated just once, in a project that began in 1999 and lasted 3 years. The renovations prioritized preservation and reuse of as much of the time-honored interior as possible. In addition, the renovation stayed true to the original construction method of using 2x4 wood structural materials, a construction approach that was considered a radical innovation in 1925. The renovations also focused on further enhancing the longevity of the interior elements and ensuring that the building would be actively used.
As a result of the renovations, the entire building can now be used for diverse events without concern about spoiling or harming the Myonichikan interior. In addition to the concert I attended, the space has been used as a lecture hall and for performances of rakugo, a Japanese storytelling performance genre. Myonichikan can also be rented as a wedding venue.
In this space that is almost perfectly the same as when it originally opened, the interior has the same energy and vitality it must have had when used as a school, even though the reasons people gather in Myonichikan has changed from daily academics to events and special occasions. I truly felt as if I was experiencing a live reenactment of the concept of building preservation.
<< Experiencing a Concert in the Acoustics of Lounge Hall >>
Looking through the Venue’s Large Windows before the Concert
The concert at the end of June featured Quartet Anima, an ensemble of musicians who all studied at Tokyo University of Arts (Geidai). The program was the second of three concerts devoted to Mendelssohn’s string quartets. The concert was held in Myonichikan’s Lounge Hall, where the green garden grounds that front the building can be seen through the large windows. The walls of the room are finished with Japanese Oya stone and troweled plaster. The contrast of those materials may attract the visitors.
Quartet Anima played its concert program of Mendelssohn string quartets with emotion, evoking passion and pathos and enabling the audience to fully taste the grace of these compositions through the expressiveness of the ensemble’s performance. Also, while Lounge Hall’s acoustics are not rich, the acoustics delivered fine balance of sound among the instruments and I could hear the distinctive character of each instrument’s sound. Especially during the pizzicato sections, I felt as if the boundary between the quartet and the audience had disappeared and was replaced with a delightful sense of immediacy and presence. Unlike listening to a quartet in a concert hall, this concert experience offered a satisfying sense of intimacy.
In addition to the concerts at Myonichikan’s Lounge Hall, regular concerts are also held in Myonichikan’s Auditorium, which was designed by architect Arata Endo. Currently this room is undergoing seismic retrofit construction, and during this time the monthly holiday concert usually performed in the Auditorium will be performed in Myonichikan’s Dining Hall. A concert soon to be held in this space will features works chosen by Tokyo College of Music students and performed by them.
During Myonichikan concert intermissions, coffee, tea and snack refreshments are served in the second floor Dining Hall. At the concert I attended, the atmosphere during the intermission was filled with lively conversations and everyone obviously enjoying the venue and the music. Myonichikan evokes a bygone time. It is heartwarming to know that the architecture of another era can be made to come alive again in a very natural way by gathering people to the venue for a concert. I left the concert feeling the importance of preserving this important cultural property by continuing to bring it back to life.
The venue’s webiste is at: http://www.jiyu.jp/index-e.html
Nagata Acoustics Inc.
Hongo Segawa Bldg. 3F, 2-35-10 Hongo
Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo 113-0033, Japan
Tel: +81-3-5800-2671, Fax: +81-3-5800-2672
1990 S. Bundy Drive, Suite 795
Los Angeles, CA 90025
Tel: +1-310-231-7878, Fax: +1-310-231-7816
75, avenue Parmentier
Tel: +33 (0)1 40 21 44 25, Fax: +33 (0)1 40 21 24 00