An Harmonious Sound

Lithuania National Concert Hall Competition, Vilnius
Prodessional work from Zago Architect, Yuchen work as a design teammenmber.
Summer 2019

Architectural Concept

“Sound describes the European culture. If the sound is sincere, if it is harmonious and pure, it inspires and unites people into a harmoniously living society.”

This new National Concert Hall for Lithuania projects the feeling of an harmonious sound outward, from the orchestra, to the audience, to the architecture, to the city of Vilnius. It presents an original architectural expression in which a series of discrete elements - the concert halls, the foyer, the promenades - are choreographed into an expressive new urban symbol for Vilnius and a cultural symbol for Lithuania.

To the north, the project respects the historic profile of Tauras Hill while also announcing its own presence. Its gently canted volumes echo the contours of the hill through a series of shifting tectonic-seeming masses which striking a note of elegant repose. These volumes - formed in concrete and clad in brick serve as entrances and promenades carrying visitors up to the Foyer and then to the halls. The topmost volume, forming the roof of the foyer with indirect natural light at its perimeter, also provides an exterior, arcaded walkway from which the public can view the city. From the north these stacked volumes are the primary expression of the concert hall, creating an inviting terminus to distant views of the city. Nestled within these volumes the Grand Foyer is raised above the entry level providing dramatic views to Luklškės Square and beyond across the Neris River.

To the south, facing the former Vilnius Evangelical Cemetery are two grand articulated volumes containing the two Halls, set above a brick-clad plinth. Clad in sustainably grown and digitally fabricated wooden panels, the Halls’ exterior are reminiscent of traditional large wooden buildings of Lithuania such as the Kurtuvėnai barn. Enlivening the area between the former cemetery and the Hall is a landscaped play area, complete with a food kiosk, and play fountain which becomes a skating pond in the winter.

Shoebox Hall

The Shoebox type concert hall has been time-proven to offer an unparalled acousitc experience. Here, the traditional layout has been updated with contemporay elements. The verticality of hall maintains the necessary ratio for optimal acoustics, while allowing for three balconies. The number of seats in each ascending balcony decreases, bringing audience members at the higher levels closer to the performance, creating a warm and intimate environment. The choir seats are laid out in a u-shape behind the orchestra and around the organ. When there is no choral performance this space may be used as ticketed seats. The majority of audience members sit at the main level as one ensemble brought together by their love of music.

The acoustic volume does not include seats, stage and the organ but it does include the space above the canopy since this space is very important acoustically. Wood is the predominant material in the hall because of its ideal acoustic properties. The seat cushions are made of a thick felt that mimics the absorption of concert-goers for accurate sound absorption during rehearsals and warm ups.

Town-Planning Concept

Given Taurus Hill's location within the city, the National Concert Hall becomes a central node among cultural sites (such as the National Library, National Opera Theatre, the Palace of Marriages and Luklškės Square) and landmarks (such as St. Anne's Church and Gediminas Castle Tower) connecting and bringing together different parts of the city. The locations of the five main entrances, encourages people from all over the city (and the world) to approach the Concert Hall from the four sides by foot, bus, bike or car. The circulation from all sides weave together bringing visitors into the Lobby. Its prominence on the hill offer sweeping views of the city along the norhtern facade.

Structural Narrative

The building systems are designed to optimally support the performing arts functions of the facility. The design parameters include acoustic and vibration isolation of the performance spaces, the accommodation of frequently changing loading conditions, mitigation of noise, and the creation of welcoming gathering spaces that celebrate the captivating nature of creative genius shared in intimate settings.

Reinforced concrete (RC) walls and framing with beams, columns and slabs is the primary material of construction for the structural systems. Secondary structures not part of the superstructure supporting the overall gravity and lateral loads could use steel framing for the glazing and cladding support, stairs and circulation, catwalks and maintenance access, etc.

The structure begins below grade with a mat foundation. A hollow-core slab system within the two-story basement level also serves as a thermal labyrinth. From the ground rises a RC shear wall system that is placed at the cores and a handful of dispersed locations to provide strength and stiffness to resist lateral loads for the whole building. The RC cores that provide vertical transportation, stairs and building services risers are the logical locations for the primary lateral system with shear walls. For the longer spans or the performance space roofs, lighter steel beam or truss framing will economically create the spacious volumes necessary to achieve acoustic performance. The concert hall, theatre, and their respective rehearsal spaces are each independent “box-in-box” structures that float on vibration isolators designed to protect the acoustic environment within. The construction of these internal boxes is intentionally heavy to provide acoustic mass, using double wall concrete or masonry unit constructions separated by a sound-isolating air-gap. Beyond the performance space boxes, the spaces that wrap around the site are framed with conventional RC with deep side wall beams and prestressing applied by post tensioning for the longer spans and cantilevers.

The Concert Hall's raked/sloped seating will have displacement ventilation with supply coming from underneath the floor to diffusers. For the lower level (orchestra/parterre), a flat and level framed concrete floor with the sloped seating built up on top of the flat slab will provide a plenum that will be pressurized to serve the underfloor system with diffusers under each seat. The balconies will be supported with RC framing using raked cantilever beams with RC floor slabs and a soffit with acoustic mass forming a plenum for displacement ventilation.