“This building is insane. It is also brilliant.”
Hugh Pearman of The Sunday Times, London, 10th April 2005.
The ‘Casa da Musica’, by Rem Koolhaas’ OMA and Arup, was to have been the architectural icon for Porto, European Cultural Capital in 2001. But many problems --protracted work on the foundations, unforeseen weather conditions, changes of government, litigious contractors and a series of five successive committees charged with running the project -- delayed completion of the building. It officially opened on April 15, 2005 and has been declared a success by the international design community and press.
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Although the brash modernity of the House of Music concert hall first seems outlandish, even bizarre, particularly in a city that dates to pre-Roman times and cherishes its centuries-old monuments, one realizes that this hall could only have been built in a country such as Portugal, which takes the results of architectural competitions seriously. Anywhere else, it would have been watered down, or abandoned.
The vision for Casa da Musica started in 1999 following a design competition won by the Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA) and Arup. A new breed of concert hall, Casa da Musica redefines the long-held conservative image: spaces appear carved from the building from the inside-out and the window’s provide spectacular views over Porto and the Atlantic ocean.
It will become the new home of the National Orchestra of Porto and will host a variety of performances ranging from classical to rock and experimental music, kicking off with a celebrity-packed concert program for the new, world-class arts venue. Alfred Brendel and Lou Reed
Dutch superstar architect Rem Koolhaas, whom many in the design world love to hate, made his reputation by writing books rather than building, then went on to design a surreal range of projects that included turning a branch of the Guggenheim museum in New York into a store for Prada, and at the same time converting a casino lobby in Las Vegas into another branch of the Guggenheim. He is in all things a contrarian who likes to provoke: “The ideal acoustic form for a concert hall is a shoebox. And we have seen a lot of architects trying to make shoeboxes interesting, or to design interesting shoeboxes. We got rid of the shoe box.”
The Casa da Musica works vertically. The auditorium is set high in a precision-moulded white concrete building. Upon entering you ascend a fantasy staircase of aluminum steps taking you up to and around the main auditorium with its huge rippling glass walls open to the city and sky. It has a spiral of smaller performance rooms wrapped around both sides of the main auditorium, and overlooking it through giant internal windows. In places it's intimate and comfortable, in others grand and formal. Your route is not obvious and getting lost is part of the experience/fun.
The 1,300-seat auditorium is suffused with daylight from the two walls made entirely of glass, a singular oddity in the music world as glass scatters sound in random directions. But Koolhaas claims to have overcome the problem by making the glass ripple in tightly curved folds, and setting two glass sheets a meter apart to insulate the hall from exterior noise. The result is ingenious and beautiful.
Santiago Ribas has produced a virtual tour of Casa da Musica, complete with a 3D model of the exterior building (using photogrammetery) and 13 fullscreen panoramas. “It was my first test with my new 360Precision head,” he says. The 3D model should be on his website soon.
Here's a breakdown of the various rooms:
Hall_1 is the public nerve centre and heart of the Casa da Musica. With an area of 1100 m2, it houses 1238 people and a stage that takes 110 musicians and a choir of 143.
The sloping orchestra seating also has two boxes with a capacity for 26 people.
Consistent with the principle of transparency from its very conception, this enormous rectangle opens up to visual communication with the other public areas of the building, with parts of the sidewalls in glass and two large glass walls, one behind the stage and the other behind the audience.
Inside, the silver and golden tones are a frank and intentional contrast to the light from the surrounding glass.
The superb technical and acoustic qualities of Hall1 make it the ex libris of the Casa da Musica and the privileged stage of major musical events in the city of Porto. Location 4th floor.
Hall 2 is smaller at 320m2, where the key word is multi-use. The floor is flat, with no fixed seating, and has a capacity of 300 people seated or 650 standing. It possesses optimized, natural acoustics and light and sound infrastructures, with the convertibility of the space kept very much in mind.
The lack of structural rigidity is the functional key to Hall2: the mobility of the stage and audience areas means that different atmospheres can be created in line with the event, be it a jazz, fado or electronic music show, a recital or a DJ session. Location 5th floor Area 320m2 Capacity 300 seated/650 standing
The Cyber Space is the meeting place for music, education, research and new technology. It is there for of innovative educational projects, catalysts of creativity, associated with the development of research and experimentation in information and musical pedagogy technology.
Location 4th floor. Area 156m2
Education and Training Area
The Casa da Musica´s Education and Research Board (DIrecção de Educação e Investigação) established strategic guidelines at a scientific and pedagogic level, in line with their medium-term priorities, in particular:
-Broadening of audiences
-Creation of new audiences
Creation of a documentation center
- Research, namely into Portuguese music
- Publishing of material in the field pedagogy and musicology
The Education and Research Board (Direcção de Educação e Investigação) creates its own intensive program for schools and the public in general, with pedagogically appropriate events for all different ages. Its activities include concerts, workshops, master classes, and courses to perfect skills, talks exhibitions and long-term projects with schools, among others.
Location 1st Floor/ 5th Floor
The VIP Room is a multi-functional area, essentially for promoters, sponsors and patrons of the arts.
Traditional blue and white Portuguese tiles are the centerpiece of this area, which simultaneously links the interior and exterior via windows facing the Hall1 auditorium and the outside of the building.
The connection to Terrace 1, with its views over the city, add a leisure area to the VIP room
Location 6th floor Area 50m2
The Casa da Musica has a total of 10 rehearsal rooms of various sizes that occupy a total area of 700m2 giving the resident and guest artists what they most need – comfort and an excellent working environment. The two largest rooms on floor (-2) can hold groups of between 20 and 100 and are equipped with its own “régie”, so as to function as recording studios. The building has 6 more underground rehearsal rooms and another 4 on the first floor.
The Casa da Musica currently has three bars for concert halls, which are open every day with different opening hours. The problem of parking could never be ignored and the Casa da Musica has a three-storey, underground car park, with a capacity for 700 vehicles and direct interior access to the building.
Other advantages that the Casa da Musica offers are the number of areas and foyers that allow for a limitless variety of smaller events.
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