Zaha Hadid’s new 1800 seat Opera House has recently opened in Guangzhou, on the banks of the Pearl River, China. Visually its is as stunning and forward thinking as you would expect from Hadid, with a futuristic flowing interior and an auditorium that looks like the belly of a spaceship.
"The space is asymmetric, but despite its unusual shape, the acoustics are perfect; the work of Harold Marshall, the veteran New Zealand acoustician. Intriguingly, he says that the strange angles of Hadid’s auditorium work to produce an acoustic perfectly suited to both western and traditional Chinese opera. "There are very, very few asymmetrical auditoriums," says Marshall. "But asymmetry can be used to play with sound in very satisfying ways; it’s more of a challenge tuning it, but the possibilities are greater, and this one has a beautifully balanced sound."
In order to aid prediction for the internal acoustics of the main auditorium, a thorough combination of both computer and 1:20 scale models (now a rarely used method) were used.
Acoustic absorption has cleverly been integrated within the gradually emerging ‘gills’ of the walls. The continually curving surfaces and asymetrical design aid with the diffusion of sound across the audience area.
Further to the main auditorium is a much smaller multi-purpose performance space where certain aesthetics of the main hall have been continued - curved/diffusive walls and the similar acoustic absorption ‘gills’.
Unlike many traditional performance venues that have been constructed purely for natural acoustics (i.e. unamplified opera, orchestral, symphony, recitals etc) it is now commonplace for modern venues to be multi purpose. A combination of modern technology, advanced loudspeaker systems / digital signal processing and careful acoustic design allow us to create such venues with success. This brings significant economic and cultural value to the building.
This is a multi-use concert hall. While the natural acoustic of the auditorium works for unamplified music, a variety of music styles and performances (such as West end theater shows) will be held here. The majority of these shows requires audio reinforcement, music playback…. meaning loudspeakers.
In order to integrate these systems with Hadid’s visual aesthetic, all speakers are concealed behind acoustically transparent material either side of the stage, and in the stage front.
The multi-use performance space also incorporates a smaller self powered system and ‘effects system’.
Hadid Projects In the
Though a UK resident, Hadid’s creations have been scarce in the UK… though last year the Evelyn Grace Academy opened in Brixton, London, and the construction of the London 2012 Aquatics Centre and Glasgow Transport Museum are surging forward. In 2009, she created the stunning but temporary JS Bach Chamber Music Hall at the Manchester Art Gallery.