The Bay Area will soon have an exquisite new concert venue with the opening of the Bing Concert Hall on the Stanford campus January 11, 2013.
Designed from the inside out
Architects of notable performance centers often work from the outside-in, first creating iconic structural landmarks and only then designing the concert halls within. Not so with the Bing, which began with the hall itself. Detailed designs were developed, complete with computer simulation of acoustics, going through 17 iterations before discarding them all and starting fresh with the 18th, which was golden. Only then did they begin external structural design. The result is not only a magnificent hall, but structural coherence drawing concert goers within to its essence. The hall is like an inlayed jewel.
Forefront of concert hall design
The Bing began with designers who have created some of the most highly acclaimed modern concert halls. On the forefront, with innovative methods, materials, and technologies, they are producing halls impossible to even envision in the past, radically transforming the concert experience.
No straight lines
Unlike traditional concert hall box configurations, with stage at one end facing the audience, seating at the Bing surrounds the stage. There are no straight lines. Seemingly random sine wave patterns are everywhere. Seating is in pod-like balconies of about 40 seats each, fitting together as though designed by nature. Large panels surround the upper reaches of the 55 foot walls. Below are various woods, chosen for their outstanding acoustic properties.
Enhanced audience and musician interaction
The Bing removes traditional barriers between audience and performers. The stage is level with first row seating, demarked only by its distinctive unfinished Alaskan cedar floor. With pod groupings, it doesn’t seem possible that capacity is 844, but it is. Remarkably, no seat is further than 75 feet from the conductor and every seat is positioned to see 100% of the stage.
360 degree seating changes audience dynamics. For example, while performing, the conductor faces not only orchestra, but also audience. With a 75 foot maximum radius, audiences have a direct line-of-sight front view of other audience members, enhancing the sense of shared experience. Quite a change from looking at backs of heads!
The stage is also built on this model, made up of semi-circular concentric rising levels, allowing musicians to see and hear each other during performaces.
The hall is not only visually, but also acoustically remarkable. Voices of various timbres are delivered with unprecedented fidelity and clarity, transmitting the loudest percussion and subtlest woodwind beautifully. In symphonic music, various voices spring to life.
The excellent acoustics aren’t accidental. There are no flat surfaces. Even the large upper wall panels have a rough random texture. Lower walls are made of wood blocks cut in seven different sine patterns and composed by computer to assure absolute randomness.
Stage construction contributes to the brilliant acoustics, with distinctive acoustical properties of Alaskan cedar multi-level flooring which vibrates, resonates and amplifies sound similar to a guitar soundboard.
Designer and Acoustician
Bing Concert Hall is designed by Richard Olcott of Ennead Architects, the internationally acclaimed architecture firm whose award-winning work includes many renowned performing arts venues including Zankel Hall at New York’s Carnegie Hall. Ennead’s additional Stanford projects include Mr. Olcott’s Cantor Center for Visual Arts, Stanford Law School William H. Neukom Building, and Anderson Collection at Stanford University set to open 2014.
The lead acoustician of Bing Concert Hall is Dr. Yasuhisa Toyota of Nagata Acoustics, a legend in his field whose projects include Walt Disney Concert Hall (Los Angeles, CA), and New World Symphony SoundSpace (Miami, FL).
Special inaugural season line-up
The Bing will host Stanford Live, which is launching a special inaugural season, with first performances of specially commissioned works and a line-up including Emanuel Ax, Jon Nakamatsu, Kathryn Stott and Glen Kotche.
Photography by Jeff Goldberg/Esto for Ennead Architects and rendering of concert hall with the piano center stage by Ennead Architects.
Don Huntley, email@example.com, 11/30/2012