Expression of sound

The second in a series of films exploring concert hall architecture examines the emotional experience of acoustics

‘How do you talk about acoustics in a meaningful way, that is not just technical?’ asks Harpa concert hall director Svanhildur Konráðsdóttir. ‘What matters is the emotional experience.’ In a way, it’s an obvious take: music’s power is its ability to exhilarate, to transform a passive moment (the act of listening) into something visceral and transcendental.
Translating this into a building is a challenge on both conceptual and industrial levels (the extreme nuance in creating a room built for clarity of sound is taxing in itself, stresses Tateo Nakajima, an acoustics and theatre director at Arup) but Harpa, explains Edward Arenius (also of Arup), was designed to echo Iceland’s landscape – the expanses of lava-covered nothingness, an image of both vastness and crystalline clarity.
‘It’s a house for music,’ says Andrzej Kosendiak of Wrocław’s National Forum of Music. Timelessness is key: the hall was designed, explains Nakajima, as a vehicle for music both archaic and contemporary (classical or otherwise). How this has been realised across all three projects is explored in this second part of Plane—Site’s Scenography of Space series.

Music: Featherlight by Lee Rosevere

Ellie Stathaki is the Architecture & Environment Director at Wallpaper*. She trained as an architect at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki in Greece and studied architectural history at the Bartlett in London. Now an established journalist, she has been a member of the Wallpaper* team since 2006, visiting buildings across the globe and interviewing leading architects such as Tadao Ando and Rem Koolhaas. Ellie has also taken part in judging panels, moderated events, curated shows and contributed in books, such as The Contemporary House (Thames & Hudson, 2018), Glenn Sestig Architecture Diary (2020) and House London (2022).