Music Hall Architecture: It’s the Best Time Ever for Sound, But Is Anyone Listening?

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Cool story from the NY Times yesterday about our “entering a golden age in concert hall design,” despite dwindling numbers with classical performance attendees. It’s an interesting piece about the history of concert hall construction, why there are so many being built today and what’s going into them. And from what we inferred in reading it, that from Gehry’s Disney Concert Hall to Jean Nouvel’s Paris Philharmonie, this swarm of new buildings have perhaps begun to even eclipse the former reason why people would go to a concert hall: to hear music. Instead, now they’re coming to experience the facility itself. Here’s a bit:

The new halls seek to root classical music firmly in the present and forge an intimate bond among orchestra, audience and music. Such experimentation surely has its risks: As architects push the limits of design, acousticians are venturing into uncertain territory. Yet if these projects succeed, they could open the way to the rarest of achievements: a blissful balance between form and sound.

For more than a century the conventional wisdom for creating a great acoustical hall was a narrow, high, rectangular “shoe box” model with a maximum of 2,500 or so seats. The holy grail was Vienna’s 1870 Musikverein, a Greek Revival invention of the Danish-born architect Theophil von Hansen.