Acoustics and architecture of the Concert Hall

Concert Hall, a musical vineyard

The Concert Hall was designed by the architects and acoustician Yasuhisa Toyota. In this collaboration, architectural and acoustic solutions came together.

Acoustician

The acoustics in the Helsinki Music Centre were designed by Nagata Acoustics, led by Yasuhisa Toyota. Sub-consulting was provided by Akukon Consulting Engineers Ltd.

Yasuhisa Toyota is one of the most esteemed acoustics designers in the world, leading the design of the following concert halls: Walt Disney Concert Hall (Los Angeles), Suntory Hall (Tokyo), and Koncerthuset (Copenhagen).
 

Toyota is an expert in the vineyard- or surround-style of concert hall design and wants to create halls with an intimate atmosphere, where the audience members can interact with the orchestra and one another.

Another benefit of any vineyard hall–with the orchestra sitting in the midst of the audience–is that even the farthest listener is actually not very far from the orchestra.

Acoustics and architecture

The architectural language of the Concert Hall was inspired by the logging patterns on the Finnish rivers.

The seating sections are like logs in a river, sticking out in different directions. The seeming movement of the seating sections provides impulses for the illuminated flow of stairs between the seating.

The dark colouring of the walls, in stained birch panel, brings to mind a place that is sacred for the Finns: the smoke sauna.

The birch panel also serves an acoustic function: The gaps between the panels help to break the flat, hard surface of the wall and produce a soft reflection, a design element that mainly affects high-pitched sounds.

The seating sections in the hall are separated by concrete walls.The birch battens laid horizontally on the walls are acoustically almost transparent:
Sound waves travel through the gaps between the battens and hit the concrete wall, which has been cast into diverging forms and shapes. This way, a seemingly straight surface can hide a tilted surface that reflects sound to a specific area, thus avoiding echo on the stage.
 

The only light-coloured element in the Concert Hall is the stage made of bleached and waxed pine. Pine was chosen because of its acoustic qualities: soft-grained wood resonates extremely well.

The seating in the Concert Hall has both ergonomic and acoustic benefits.

The seats simulate the way the human body absorbs and reflects sound.
This way, the acoustic performance of the hall is affected as little as possible by the number of people present in the audience.

Above the stage, the canopy is an important part of the architecture of the Concert Hall.
It helps the orchestra hear its own music better. The canopy also disguises technical equipment.

Acoustics design

A short note concerning acoustics design: Acoustic design consists of choices.

There is no single, absolute "good acoustics" model. The design has to be based on the resources and requirements of the space in question.

For instance, acoustics in the Helsinki Music Centre’s Concert Hall have been designed particularly for acoustic or non-amplified orchestral music whereas acoustics in Black Box are designed for amplified music.
 
The acoustic qualities to be emphasised in the space must be chosen as well.For instance, the acoustic design in the Centre’s Concert Hall was made to emphasise differentiation whereas Organo’s design focused on creating the atmosphere of a sacral room and a sustained, round timbre.