• What are the elements of acoustics? What should come to our minds when acoustics and acoustics in architecture is mentioned?
Ultimately, we can only influence the architectural elements, namely the room shape and materials. Our company philosophy is to allow the architect plenty of leeway while guiding them towards a successful acoustical result. The audience experience at a concert is influenced not only by acoustics but the visual impression. In this way, we share responsibility for a venue with the architect. It is very much a collaborative process.
• Why it is an important issue to make acoustically good spaces?
Our company focuses primarily on halls for classical music performances. Classical music is a beloved part of our culture. Our goal is to bring together the public and the artists, to let the community interact with the arts. To reach this goal, one of our main design considerations is intimacy. The architect must create a sense of visual intimacy and we must create a sense of acoustic intimacy. In a well-crafted hall, the audience should feel a sense of connectedness and comfort.
• In which stage and how acoustics should be handled in newly constructed buildings?
In a newly constructed building, the acoustics are brand new. Most importantly, the musicians need time to adjust to their new environment. Most orchestras will only experience a new hall once or maybe twice in the span of a musician’s career. The musicians must acclimate to their new space; they must relearn how to hear themselves and each other. Many clients want to open their new building as soon as the construction is completed, but it is vitally important to give the musicians as much time as possible to rehearse.
• How should acoustics design process be in the buildings under renovation?
Renovation projects are much more difficult than new construction because there are many restrictions associated with renovation projects. Many historical buildings cannot have their exteriors altered and there limitations on the interior. This is a significant increase in complexity. Often, the older buildings are too small to support the size of a modern orchestra with all the necessary backstage areas. We must fight for the limited space with other building disciplines who are faced with the same space restrictions. Both the clients and architects must be cautious in expecting an old building to function in the same way as a new one.
• What are the acoustic solutions applied to open-air spaces?
The greatest difficulty with open-air acoustics is that audiences expect similar sound to interior acoustics. Some instruments – especially strings – depend heavily on the supporting reflections from the walls and ceiling. In an outdoor space, we have much fewer architectural surfaces to work with. We must be much more creative in terms of surface material and seating layout. The floor is the only hard surface we can rely on and it must shoulder the burden of acoustical reflections.
• Can you tell us about the recently completed Elbphilharmonie project in Hamburg? How was the design process?
In a word, complicated. Every architect is unique. They each have their own style of working and their own design direction. Herzog & de Meuron wanted the Elbphilharmonie to be distinctive from other projects. Acoustically, the project was
quite challenging for us. Herzog and de Meuron created a novel seating layout and complex interior shape and surface material. In the end I am very happy with the result, and I think that the Hamburg concert goers would agree.
• What is the most successful project / venue in terms of acoustics in the recent period? Why?
Asking me to pick which project is the best is like asking you to pick the favourite of your children. Each has its own personality and character which is different from all the others. However, that does not mean that one is inherently better than another. In this way, it is not easy to pinpoint a single, most successful project.
• Aside from methods coming from past to date in acoustics field what are the new materials and applications that come out by technological developments?
This is an exciting time to be designing concert venues. For much of history, architecture was limited to flat surfaces, leading to the traditional shoebox hall shape. But now with computer modeling and more sophisticated building technologies, architects are free to design with curves, cantilevers, experimental seating layouts, and so forth. This means that there is much more variation in concert hall designs and we as acousticians are also given flexibility to experiment.