Portrait de Salles: Casa da Música / Chloé Perlemuter / 2010

Portrait de Salles: Casa da Música / Chloé Perlemuter / 2010


Footnotes

Koolhaas may like to claim that he does not to want to invent more than he has to. But the Casa da Musica is nevertheless a ruthlessly inventive building. It is the only concert hall in the world with two walls made entirely of glass. As a result its 1,300-seat auditorium is suffused with daylight. It comes pouring in from behind the podium on which the orchestra will sit, and streaming down from the wall behind the audience. Porto's soft white Atlantic light makes it a beautiful and comfortable place to sit, but as an idea it terrifies acousticians trying to replicate Amsterdam's Concertgebouw, or any of the handful of models that all concert halls aspire to emulate. Glass walls are a hopeless way of trying to achieve the conditions you need to hear music properly. They scatter sound in random and unpredictable directions, and of course they risk letting in the noise of passing traffic. ➡︎

But it is not just the glass that suggests an ambitious plan that was in the end compromised by the tricky demands of acoustics, which have bedeviled so many talented architects over the years. For the most part, the walls are covered by plywood panels that are embossed with a gold, oversized wood-grain pattern that is deliberately pixilated, as if produced on a Commodore 64 computer in 1984. Like it or hate it, the combination of plain wood and pattern here is a nervy gesture. But it is undermined by the acoustical paneling that has replaced the plywood in large swaths of the ceiling and both side walls.
Those panels help the hall perform acoustically at a relatively high level: clear and intimate for Brendel's solo recital; big and vital for an amplified performer such as Pena, who was accompanied by several other guitarists, two choruses and three dancers. Yet along with the huge organs and the pillow above the stage and the curtains, they create a space that is impersonal and busy at the same time. 
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Because the concert hall was meant to beam out into the city, glass façades on both sides were called for. But since flat surfaces are not advantageous for sound, Koolhaas developed, with his engineers Cecil Balmond and Renz van Luxemburg, a massive, rippling glass that separates the hall and the city. This glass façade bends according to the outline of a sinus curve. As such, the glass is, on the one hand, so stable that it bears weight without the support of steel or concrete, while on the other hand, the glass curve reflects the sound better than any other pane. The sinus curved glass façade, then, is a form constructed for both at the same time, space and sound. It brings together the two arts the visitor physically cannot ignore here, music and architecture, into a single form. What’s more, the curved glass, like so much in this building, has a Baroque effect. It distorts what the eye sees. If you move past the curved pane, the world outside collapses as if seen through a kaleidoscope. ➡︎

Those very thick walls enclose the long sides of the large auditorium; from them it hangs as a completely separate and isolate structure for acoustic reasons. The shoebox shaped large auditorium was taken for being the most efficient and reliable, as prove the considered acoustically best concert halls in the world. The two immense glass walls (windows from the outside) were then the challenge. Renz van Luxemburg (from Dorsser Blesgraaf – Acoustics) believes there is a relationship between how the space sounds and how the space looks. Therefore, together with OMA, structural corrugated glass panels were developed to reverberate sound into the lateral walls, which, above the stage zone, kick it down to the public. At the same time they solve aesthetical and structural issues. Acoustics is claimed to be close to Amsterdam's, Boston's or Vienna's concert halls. ➡︎


Extras

◼︎ Big Windows in Porto / Jeroen Mensink / ArchiNed / April 26 2005

▶︎ Lecture: Ellen's Perfect Night In / Ellen van Loon / Architectural Association / February 5, 2014


Sources

◼︎ Rem Koolhaas/Casa da Musica / Deyan Sudjic / The Observer / April 10 2005

◼︎ A severely hip concert hall / Christopher Hawthorne / Los Angeles Times / May 08, 2005

◼︎ Rem Koolhaas’ Casa da Música, Porto / Niklas Maak / 032c Issue #10 / Winter 2005/2006

◼︎ Casa da Música Porto by OMA / Zé Luís Tavares / ArchiNed / April 19 2005


Mind Space / Miguel C. Tavares & Rui Manuel Vieira / Casa da Música / 2010

Mind Space / Miguel C. Tavares & Rui Manuel Vieira / Casa da Música / 2010

DJI Phantom 4: Porto | Casa da Música & Rotunda Boavista / Digi Flow / 2016

DJI Phantom 4: Porto | Casa da Música & Rotunda Boavista / Digi Flow / 2016