Architecture and Music: the 10 most beautiful Concert halls
Concert halls are among the most fascinating cultural buildings ever, whether their stages have hosted memorable performances, or they are characterised by distinctive designs, beautiful on the eye. Some of them could be considered actual temples of music.
These halls accommodate a wide range of performance types, such as opera, classical orchestra, and ballet. Behind each and every concert hall there are unique architectural and design projects. Physics, engineering, and architecture are often involved in the process of conceiving and constructing these halls, as their joint forces are at the full service of music.
There are a number of concert halls in the world, and each of them would deserve to be mentioned. While in this precise moment of our lives we are unable to visit them, Google Arts&Culture provides us with the possibility to step onto some of the most beautiful stages on earth. We have made a selection of what in our opinion are the most astonishing concert halls of the world.
1. Sydney Opera House, Sydney
The Sydney Opera House is the unmistakable symbol of Sydney and one of Australia’s most iconic buildings. Its distinctive architecture is characterised by the concrete shells of its roof, which have often been likened to while sails, although in designing them, the architect Jørn Utzon took inspiration from slices of orange.
In 1956, Utzon won the competition announced by the New South Wales Government for an Opera House to be built in Sydney. At the time, he was 38 years old. The committee relied on his experience with naval architecture as he was asked to study the shores of Sydney Harbour. Fun fact: to maintain the temperature inside the building, the Sydney Opera House uses its location to its advantage.
It takes the seawater from the harbour to circulate it into the cooling system. The water runs through the 35 kilometres of pipers to power both the heating and air conditioning in the building. Another curiosity: the shell-like concrete vaults characteristic of the Opera House are cladded with glazed off-white tiles.
2. Pierre Boulez Sall, Berlin
Frank Gehry is the name behind the Berlin Pierre Boulez Saal. Daniel Baremboim initially invited Gehry into the project, with the aim of valorising both the visual and the acoustic experience of the audience. The Berlin concert hall is named after Pierre Boulez, an extraordinary universalist and a cultural emissary.
One of the biggest challenges encountered during the designing of the Saal was the nesting of the building into the existing structure. The Boulez Saal is inserted in a historical warehouse, filling an area of approximately 6,500 square meters in Friedrichstraße.
It was constructed under the GDR and is characterised by a neoclassical architecture. The edifice also has offices, 21 rehearsal rooms, and the library of the Barenboim-Saïd Academy. Gehry designed the hall realising a totally modular construction which can be reconfigured in a variety of spatial correlations. The stage is in the middle, surrounded by two elliptical formations, one above the other.
Such a unique feat of architecture is designed to accommodate the needs of different musical performances. The effect is that of extreme lightness and elegance. It is an emblematic example of how architecture can serve music, rather than the other way around.
3. The Verona Arena, Verona
The Verona Arena is the largest existing open-air theater. The construction of the Arena dates back to the Augustan period, as the Colosseum. This theatre, too, was used to hold the gladiator fights and other forms of entertainment for the citizens.
The elliptical shape of the Arena provides the space with both excellent acoustics and view. Before becoming internationally famous for hosting large-scale opera performances and ballets, the Verona Arena had a long and complex history.
The first opera show performed at the Arena? Verdi’s Aida, which officially opened the 1913 Verona Opera Festival. Since then, the Verona amphitheatre become the most famous open-air opera theatre of the world. Every year, beside the Opera Festival, the Verona Arena hosts a number of music concerts of important Italian and international artists.
4. London Royal Albert Hall, London
The Royal Albert Hall is one of the most renowned concert halls of the world, and certainly the most famous of the United Kingdom. It is located in the heart of South Kensington, London. It was built in 1951, to fulfill the vision of Prince Albert. After his death, it was Henry Cole, one of the Prince’s closest collaborators, who accomplished the building of the hall.
Its architecture, designed by Francis Fowke and H. Y. Darracott Scott, is inspired by Roman amphitheaters. Its distinctive exteriors are built from over 6 million red bricks. Queen Victoria laid the foundation stone. Today, the Hall is one of the London most characteristic buildings. Its stage has been taken by artists such as The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Frank Sinatra, Dian Ross, and BB King.
5. Guangzhou Opera House, Guangzhou (Cina)
Built in 2010, along the Guangzhou river, in Cina, the Guangzhou Opera House has been designed by Zaha Hadid. Its structure, appearing as twin boulders taken from the riverbed, and smoothed by erosion in a stream, is inspired by the Pearl River, an extensive river system in the south of Cina.
6. New York Carnegie Hall, New York
The New York Carnegie Hall is the most famous music hall in New York. Since its opening, in 1981, a roll of international artists has filled its stage.
The Carnegie Hall was built in 1890 by Andrea Carnegie, and the building’s name pays homage to its architect. Fun fact: if you start coughing during one of the performances, chances are you’ll be granted some tussive relief.
7. Frits Philips Concert Hall, Eindhoven
This Dutch Concert Hall combines music, technology, lightning, and design. The new Frits Philips Concert Hall have been designed by the architects Niels van Eijk and Miriam van der Lubbe, who took care of every single detail: from its façade to its furniture, and its terracotta decorations.
The building is characterised by the large glass front, 25 meters wide and 13 meters high, which provides views into the foyer and the two floors above. The renovation project conceived the Concert Hall as being the absolute music centre of the future. A spectacular staircase leads to the two concert halls. Furnitures and crockery have been designed by the Dutch companies Keijsers Interior Projects and Lensvelt.
8. Paris Palais Garnier, Paris
The Opéra Garnier is situated in the homonymous building. It is representative of the Parisian architecture. It was built at the end of the 19th century, as a part of the Hausmann urban renewal. The young architect Charles Garnier was in charge of the project. The ceilings of the world-famous building have been painted by Marc Chagall.
9. Tokyo Opera City Concert Hall, Tokyo
This Japanese concert hall is one of the most renowned examples of excellent acoustics. Architectural acoustics, as a science, began with an American physicist, Wallace Clement Sabine, the founding father of this field of study.
The unique acoustic experience offered by this concert hall is granted by the design of its rectangular hall, by its ceilings, shaped as a distorted pyramid, and by its interior surfaces, combined to distribute sources on the stage uniformly over the seating areas. The acoustics pioneer, together with the architect of the Opera House, Takahiko Yanagisawa, work hard to guarantee an extraordinaire acoustic experience for the audience.
Although being a relatively small concert hall, the Tokyo Opera City Concert Hall mimics the acoustics of a much larger space. Thanks to its unique design and its materials, the sound comes raining back on the audience later than one would expect from a modest hall, giving the impression of surfaces much farther away, and room size therefore much louder.
10. Bregenz Festival, Bregenz
The Bregenz Festival is a performing arts festival featuring the world’s largest floating stage, which pops up on the waters of Lake Constance. This unique stage is also characterised by impressive theatre designs.
The festival programme features a rich number of orchestral, musical, and theatrical events. The show traditionally begins way before the starting of the performances, when the audience is ferried to its seats by silent boats.