Concept for Lucerne Festival's New Salle Modulable

Classic Arts News   Concept for Lucerne Festival's New Salle Modulable
Below is the text of the "concept study," as prepared by the Lucerne Festival in collaboration with Max Schmid Architects of Bern, for the planned opera house to be called the Salle Modulable Lucerne and currently scheduled to open in 2011-12.

What is the "Salle Modulable"?

The term "salle modulable" was used by composer Pierre Boulez and stage director Patrice Ch_reau for the first time more than 20 years ago. In developing plans for the new Op_ra Bastille building, the two had proposed erecting a "salle modulable" ["adjustable hall"] instead of a classical opera house, "modulable" in the sense that the floor of the auditorium could be raised or lowered in individual segments. Spatial, audio, design and lighting concepts would allow a vast spectrum of works to be performed. The concepts would also accommodate the most recent developments in electronic music.

The Stage of the "Salle Modulable Lucerne"

This concept, conceived by Boulez and Ch_reau, as been further developed for the "Salle Modulable Lucerne."

Its core is a flexible and adjustable concert hall seating about 1,000. The hall may then be divided into two smaller chamber music spaces, each housing between 400 and 500 concertgoers. On one side of the hall, there is a fully equipped opera stage, which may be visually and acoustically separated from the hall by a movable wall (iron curtain). The orchestra pit can be part of the stage or the hall, present itself semi-closed (for instance for Wagner operas), or remain entirely open (for Mozart or Verdi operas).

The key tenet of the "Salle Modulable Lucerne" is its adaptability. The floor of the hall as well as that of the stage area is divided into segments that may be individually raised or lowered, offering the opportunity to divide the stage and the audience in a flexible arrangement or link them more closely. Thus the traditional barriers between stage and audience may be overcome. From an amphitheatre to a mere peep box, any conceivable spatial arrangement is possible.

The possibility to individually raise or lower the various floor segments also calls for a flexibly designed seating concept.

Acoustics and Visuals

Ceilings and walls may be adjusted to accommodate acoustic and visual requirements, with audio-visual facilities integrated across the ceiling. This consists of two layers, an acoustical one placed above a technical one. The latter has a grid of banded segments with the bands forming the supports of the audio-visual installations and the fields in-between remaining open.

This installation ceiling is accessible. The acoustic ceiling covers the entire surface and shows the same banded grid as the technical ceiling. The individual fields between the bands may be lowered mechanically through the fields of the technical ceiling to the desired height in order to change the acoustics as well as the spatial appearance of the hall. With the help of the banded technical grid, the audio-visual installations may be spread over the surface of the entire hall and allow the most varied forms of production from classical opera to electronic music, including a large range of spatial, visual, and acoustic effects and new media.

The walls, too, will have to meet several requirements. On the one hand they will serve as technical galleries on which to place the audio-visual installations (lighting systems, loud-speakers, etc.); on the other, they are acoustic elements whose surface characteristics may be altered to make the hall either reverberant or dry. At the same time, the galleries will serve as visual projection surfaces.

All these spatial, acoustic, and visual adjustments will be managed from a central control room, turning the "Salle Modulable Lucerne" itself into something of a musical instrument with its spatial, acoustic, or visual design moulding to the score. Contrary to conventional concert halls or traditional opera stages, the architectural design of the hall will thus be in the hands of the stage director.

What other facilities will there be?

The rooms adjacent to the stage house all the facilities required for an opera operation, including dressing rooms as well as workshops, rehearsal stages and offices.

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