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New design tendencies in modern concert hall design



New concert hall design trends are emerging as seen from recently completed halls around the world and recent international architectural competitions. Analyzing the current situation, the paper starts by differentiating the acoustical characters of major traditional concert hall forms such as the large shoe-box, the Vineyard and the surround hall. It discusses in particular the balance of acoustical energy that characterize these different basic hall shapes, the sensation of intimacy in relation to the listener's distance to the performance area and the different early reflection patterns inherent from these hall shapes. As an example of modern concert halls design tendencies, the paper then describes a design option chosen by Arup Acoustics for the Paris Concert Hall Architectural design competition with Zaha Hadid architect. The paper describes the development of the form and shape of the hall in response to the brief, the concept chosen for the design of sendingreceiving surfaces to improve the early reflection "efficiency" and "stability" and the use of an overhead reflector to improve the balance between soloist and orchestra and the balance between the orchestra and the reverberation in the hall.
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Reprinted from
Volume 18 · Number 3, 4 · 2011
Concert Hall Design—Present Practices
Leo L. Beranek, Anders Christian Gade, Alban Bassuet,
Lawrence Kirkegaard, Harold Marshall
and Yasuhisa Toyota
Trends and Innovative Ideas in Modern Concert Hall Design
Symphony halls around the world come in a wide variety of shapes and forms. They
range from the large rectangular “shoebox” halls of 19
century, to the arena format
with platforms of seats in radial arrangement towards the stage, to the vineyard shape,
to the full surround concert hall with the stage moved towards the middle, with multiple
variations in between. Choice of a particular form is not driven by acoustics alone but
also by architectural, social, demographic or political desires or site constraints.
Acoustic design and analysis tools now allow a much better understanding of room
acoustics in the design stages, for example how subjective impression of sound such as
intimacy, clarity, spaciousness or reverberance can be influenced by specific sound
reflection timing, amplitude, and incidence. Using these tools acousticians have more
information to interpret the implications of particular architectures on acoustic
performances for the design of new halls and the realization of a range of diverse
project’s ambitions. This should lead to the emergence of a greater diversity in
performance space architectural design. It should also be noted that the majority of new
concert halls must be able to accommodate a range of event types from symphonic and
chamber music, through jazz, rock, pop world music and conferences.
Recent Arup projects confirm the trends. Projects range from The Sage Gateshead
(1,650 seats) designed as a pure rectangular hall with the Vienna Musikvereinssaal as a
benchmark, but capable of a wide range of use, to the Bridgewater Hall in Manchester
(2,400 seats) hybrid between the shoe-box and vineyard form (Fig. 1), to the Istanbul
concert hall designed as a pure vineyard shape (2,500 seats).
New technologies are opening up new avenues for design and creativity. Direct A/B
comparisons in lab of ambisonic recordings of existing halls are greatly facilitating
BUILDING ACOUSTICS · Volume 18 · Number 3, 4 · 2011 163
Figure 1. Bridgewater Concert Hall, Manchester, UK.
objective comparisons of different spaces (the ArupSoundLab allows this to happen in
a specifically designed and controlled environment). Objective and subjective tests of
new shapes against renowned benchmarks are being made. The representation of the
acoustic signatures of halls in 3D to better understand how each reflection contributes
to the spatial composition of sound [1]. These technologies also allow one to re-visit the
great acoustics of the past, such as the rooms used by the classic composers themselves,
to better understand the relationship between music and architecture [2] to inspire better
new designs.
Modern architecture is constantly seeking new ways of expression, leading to complex
architectural geometries and difficult acoustical properties to predict. Today, acousticians
and room designers have a wide range of tools available to engage pro-actively in the
design process of complex room shapes: physical scale model (1:100 scale for quick
prototype laser study up to 1:10 scale for full acoustic analysis), 3D computer models for
acoustic simulations or visualization, real time ray tracing programs (Rhino-
Grasshopper), sightline renderings and seat layout and size optimization, FEM/BEM
analysis of walls and materials, auralizations, and more. These open-up new ground for
the shaping of new halls and the possibility to re-interpret the known fundamental
acoustical principles but in modern architectural languages.
These tools have been applied directly by Arup through involvement in architectural
competitions. For the Bonn Concert Hall competition with Zaha Hadid architect, Arup
proposed a modern interpretation of the classic shoe-box with complex sweeping wall
surfaces and balconies optimized in 3D to increase acoustical intimacy and
envelopment (Fig. 2). For the Sinfonia Varsovia competition with SO-IL architects we
164 Concert Hall Design—Present Practices
Figure 2. Arup Design developed for the Bonn Concert Hall competition with Zaha
Hadid Architect.
proposed a surround concert hall shape where each platform of seats was surrounded by
small walls and ceiling elements creating series of “acoustical pod” environment,
coupled to an outer volume used to adjust the hall to different orchestra forces (from
concerto, to classic or post-romantic symphonies) (Fig. 3).
These are some of the ideas, tools and trends that are emerging from our current
involvement in the performing arts: a desire to expand beyond the traditional shoe-box
concert hall with new and more dynamic audience / performer relationships, to shape
more complex spaces and re-interpret the knowledge of acoustics in different
architectural languages, and more ambitious acoustical goals.
1. Alban Bassuet, “New Acoustical Parameters and Visualization Techniques to
Analyze the Spatial Distribution of Sound in Music Spaces”, ISRA 2010.
2. Alban Bassuet, “Acoustics of a Selection of Famous 18
Century Opera Houses:
Versailles, Markgräfliches, Drottningholm, Schwetzingen”, ASA, SFA,
Acoustics’ 08 conference, Paris 2008.
BUILDING ACOUSTICS · Volume 18 · Number 3, 4 · 2011 165
Figure 3. Arup Design developed for the Sinfonia Varsovia Competition with
SO-IL architects.
... In the age of innovation, a strong and at the same time original architectural image has become necessary to transform a building into a central element of the urban environment. Modern architecture is constantly seeking new ways of expression, leading to complex architectural geometries [10]. And this gave rise to an extensive complex of architectural and structural solutions for such spatial structures as shells. ...
Full-text available
This paper deals with the use of the shells in the architecture of concert halls through research on the historical development of the concert building’s space. These elements are widely applied in civil engineering and architecture due to the good operational qualities, very rich spectrum of forms, the simplicity of production and its technical efficiency. The article considers two types of shells: conoid and truncated cone to choose the most optimal form for covering the concert hall.
Full-text available
According to the pre-qualification program for the production of Korean conductor for ITER TF magnet, a CICC(Cable In Conduit Conductor) sample for SULTAN test was developed based on the ??Option 2?? specification which is the improved one among the two established baseline designs. For the assessment of performance, SULTAN test of the conductor sample was carried out in CRPP employing recently updated instrumentations on the sample and the joint of two conductor pieces, which has been discussed and modified for the proper estimation of . As a course of the analysis, the assessment of values was presented using the basic protocol of data reduction, and the discussion was made on the standard process of analysis. In addition, we investigated some exposed problems in the data manipulation such as non-linear voltage slopes being possible to be related to conductor characteristic itself and the initial offset problem in the calorimetric method. On the presentation of the test results, we also report the manufacture of the conductor with the qualification of the components including carefully designed Nb3Sn internal-tin superconducting strands for an improvement of conductor performance.
Acoustics of a Selection of Famous 18 th Century Opera Houses
  • Alban Bassuet
Alban Bassuet, "Acoustics of a Selection of Famous 18 th Century Opera Houses: Versailles, Markgräfliches, Drottningholm, Schwetzingen", ASA, SFA, Acoustics' 08 conference, Paris 2008.