When entering a concert hall or gallery, we expect to encounter art inside. But why restrict the performance to the stage?
Over the past two years, French firm Herault Arnod Architectes has been busily constructing a multi-functional building on the edge of northeast France’s last remaining coal mine. The building, aptly called The Metaphone, is itself an urban musical instrument, capable of projecting performances outward into the community. According to the designers, the structure’s walls produce and diffuse sounds in harmony with the play of light.
The exterior of the Metaphone sports mosaic tiles that hint at the playfulness within. The entire concert hall, including annexes, technical rooms and audience boxes, are contained within a volume of black concrete. This is then wrapped in a light skin made of scales of different materials: ground glass, steel, and wood. Between the concrete mass and the dappled skin are technical walkways are provided for installing and maintaining the sound and lighting equipment. On the roof, the lattice extends into a sheet of integrated photovoltaic solar cells.
Besides stages and soundboards, the Metaphone concert hall has also grown musical appendages. “The instrumental elements are made up of plates of different materials, whose acoustic properties have been calculated to produce musical sound,” explain the designers. “There are two principles of sound production: mechanical or electroacoustic, with vibrating bowls mounted on the plates to form loudspeaker membranes (this technique is commonly used in the car industry). These systems have been developed and tested by making a prototype of the musical facade, composed of 8 modules measuring 1.2 meters, half fitted with an acoustic instrument, the other half with vibrating plates.”
In addition to amplifying music created on the porch out to an audience seated on the lawn, World Architecture reports that “the panels in the outer shell can be vibrated using a series of cables connected to a control cabin…Plans are to invite musicians from around the world to remotely operate this unusual instrument and display their work through a new medium.”
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