Using Technologies in Architecture to Enhance Acoustic Experience

Introduction

Often the acoustics pose challenges for architects and motivates them to use their imagination and creativity. Architecture forms may integrate use of advanced technologies in order to enhance acoustics in modern concert halls. The key role of advanced technologies that are used in architecture is to enhance acoustic experience at a live performance concert venue. Acoustic design has evolved over the years to allow sound engineers and architects to avoid any sound disasters. Electronic technologies and computer aided software have the power to solve many acoustical problems by allowing them to access the acoustic performance as early as design stage. Technologies such as ray tracing that use a computer technique to visualize how sound waves travel through space, and auralization that helps architects to hear how buildings may sound in the design phase have contributed in the enhancement of acoustics to a great deal (Brensilver, 2004). The current essay analyzes two concert halls/outdoor venue space designed by Frank Gehry including Chicago’s Jay Pritzker Pavilion, and Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles.

Chicago’s Jay Pritzker Pavilion
Chicago has always been famous for its skyscraper buildings and beautiful architecture. The city has been able to attract many visitors to Millennium Park that features an open concert stage that has been designed by architect Frank Gehry (Cornwell, 2006). Jay Pritzker Pavilion as a part of the architecture has a soaring, curving stainless steel body with an open concert value. The pavilion has a 120 foot high billowing headdress made of brushed steel ribbons that make the stage similar to a post-modern proscenium (Cornwell, 2006). It is favorable for large audiences with 4000 fixed seats and a large lawn to accommodate 7000 more people. The key attraction is the innovative sound system which is first of its kind with an ability to mimic the effects of an indoor concert hall by using the technique of distributing sound equally over fixed seats and lawn. The three part structure including a stage house with perforated Douglas fir for the orchestra and choir, a steel plated shell designed to deflect and contain sound and intersecting steel pipes which extend over 90m in the lawn with lights and speakers allow an even distribution of digital sound in the hall (Webb, 2004). The hall has an added acoustic enhancement system that provide virtual walls and also has the capability to mask city noise. Speakers are placed after every 60 feet for the lawn audience consisting of enhancement as well as reinforcement speakers. The lateral speakers supplement sound while directing it towards the center for wall like reflections. Sound also extends to the lawn and also comes back to the performers. The hall has a computerized delay system that synchronizes sound from different locations at different time intervals (Napoleon, 2000). Since the stadium acoustics distribute the sound evenly over fixed seats and lawns, audience can choose to be seated according to their choices (Malnar & Hays, 2006). The trellis with speakers over the audience allows sound to reach a large number of people (Dawson).

It is considered as one of the most complex concert venue in US with a capacity to hold more than 12000 people at the same time. The technological innovation used in this hall is known as LARES system that creates reflected and reverberant energy which surrounds an audience in an indoor venue (Delacoma, 2005). Pritzker Pavilion is the first outdoor concert hall in US to adopt LARES system in US. It is with these LARES system sound technology, that sound can effectively reach a large audience in the hall. LARES system cancels any echoing effects and makes the listeners feel as if they are listening to the sound such as live orchestra from a huge distance (Chicagoarchitecture.info, 2012). Sound amplification in the outdoor concert area wonderfully enhances the reach of sound (Rhein, 2004). Douglas fir around seats of orchestra and chorus allow them to hear each other with clarity (Kamin, 2004).

Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles

Walt Disney Concert Hall is located within a two layered plastered box that serves the purpose of acoustic shell and sound proofing (Goldberger, 2003). The walls and ceilings of the hall have Douglas fir wood with oak floor to enhance acoustics (The American Institute of Architects, 2015).

While designing larger halls, it is a challenge for the architects to seat more people and also provide a stylish design with quality acoustics. Using shoebox like designs won’t work since sidewalls shift farther from each other and thus reflections take longer to reach certain seats in the hall. Architect Frank Gehry designed a vineyard shaped hall with terraced seating, central stage for higher capacity and higher interaction between sound players and the audience. A vineyard shaped auditorium was designed on the principle that concave shape focuses sound while convex scatters it (Krieger Products, 2015). The walls around Disney Hall are an optical illusion since they are made of transparent material to allow sound to easily pass through and reflect. 3D computer models and complex software were used to fine tune the concert hall (Vankin, 2013).

The acoustics of the hall are clear, transparent and preferable for large scale symphonic music as well as small to mid-scale works (Rahilly, 2009). Creators of Walt Disney Concert Hall used methods such as ultrasonic sound generators to test how sound waves travel and reflect in the halls (Backscatter, 2013). According to acoustician Yasuhisa Toyota, a balance of acoustics involves a correlation between the science of architecture and music art (Anderson, 2015).

During the construction of Disney Hall, acoustic tests using one-tenth scale model were used. Each aspect had to be reduced by the same degree which demanded that frequency of sounds should be made ten-fold in order to reduce the wavelength to tenth of the usual and nitrogen was used to expel oxygen and water that absorb high frequency sounds (Walt Disney Concert Hall, 2015).

Conclusion

On the basis of the above discussion it is clear that advanced technologies can play an instrumental role in facilitating the use of innovative acoustic solutions that enable architects to offer exceptional sound experience to audience in concert halls. Leading architects have utilized various technologies to assess the quality of acoustics in their designs so as to modify the structures at an early stage of development. The practical examples of Chicago’s Jay Pritzker Pavilion, and Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles are brilliant cases of superior acoustics while supported by innovative designs.

References

Anderson, A. (2015, May 14). The Sound of Music: acoustician Yasuhisa Toyota. Retrieved from Internationalartsmanager.com: http://www.internationalartsmanager.com/2015/05/the-sound-of-music-acoustician-yasuhisa-toyota/

Backscatter. (2013, October 2). Mr. Yasuhisa Toyota-The Honest Engineer of Disney Hall. Retrieved from Rettacs.org: http://rettacs.org/mr-yasuhisa-toyota-the-honest-engineer-of-disney-hall/

Brensilver, D. A. (2004). With Acoustics, No Longer Just Playing it by Ear. Architecture, 93(6), 28.

Chicagoarchitecture.info. (2012). The Pritzker Pavilion. Retrieved from Chicagoarchitecture.info: http://www.chicagoarchitecture.info/Building/1248/The-Pritzker-Pavilion.php

Cornwell, T. (2006, October 11). Millennium Park Burnushes Downtown. National Mortgage News, p. 22.

Dawson, J. (n.d.). Jay Pritzker Pavilion, Millennium Park. 16.

Delacoma, W. (2005). The Jay Pritzker Pavilion Millennium Park Chicago, IL. Retrieved from Lareslexicon.com: http://www.lares-lexicon.com/millenium/millenium.html

Goldberger, P. (2003). Good Vibrations the Skyline. The New Yorker, 79(28), 108-109.

Kamin, B. (2004, July 18). Jay Pritzker Pavilion; Randolph and Columbus Drives; Frank Gehry, Los Angeles. Chicago Tribune.

Krieger Products. (2015). The Walt Disney Concert Hall: An Acoustical Wonder. Retrieved from Kriegerproducts.com: http://www.kriegerproducts.com/successstories/the-walt-disney-concert-hall/

Malnar, J. M., & Hays, D. L. (2006). Millennium Park, Chicago: A Sensory Delight, Part 2. The Senses and Society, 1(2), 259-266.

Napoleon, D. (2000). Indoors out. Entertainment Design, 34(11), 25-26.

Rahilly, L. (2009). The Architecture of Acoustics. Retrieved from Listenmusicmag.com: http://www.listenmusicmag.com/feature/the-architecture-of-acoustics.php?page=1

Rhein, J. v. (2004, July 18). Pavilion’s sound a work in progress. Retrieved from Chicagotribune.com: http://www.chicagotribune.com/entertainment/music/chi-0407180378jul18-story.html

The American Institute of Architects. (2015). Walt Disney Concert Hall. Retrieved from The American Institute of Architects: http://www.aia.org/cities/los-angeles/all-stories/disneyconcerthall/index.htm

Vankin, D. (2013, September 20). Disney Hall: Yasuhisa Toyota’s fluid, innovative approach to sound. Retrieved from Los Angeles Times: http://articles.latimes.com/2013/sep/20/entertainment/la-et-cm-walt-disney-concert-hall-yasuhisa-toyota-20130922

Walt Disney Concert Hall. (2015). Acoustics. Retrieved from Wdch10.laphil.com: http://wdch10.laphil.com/wdch10/wdch/acoustics.html

Webb, M. (2004). View from Chicago. The Architectural Review, 216(1293), 38-39.

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