Coop Himmelb(l)au founder Wolf D Prix explains how the design of his House of Music concert hall in Denmark was influenced by a monastery by Le Corbusier in this movie by architectural filmmakers Spirit of Space.
In the four-minute movie, the 72-year-old Austrian architect explains the guiding principles behind his firm’s design for the school and concert hall that opened last year in the Danish city of Aalborg.
The 20,000-square-metre music venue is composed of a U-shaped volume containing classrooms and rehearsal areas. That volume wraps a curvaceous, 1,300-seat auditorium at the centre of the building. Perched on a waterfront site, the building looks out toward Limfjord, the body of water bordering Aalborg.
“This is a very simple typology of a courtyard building,” says Prix in the movie.
“The concert hall is breaking this rigid frame,” he explains. “This typology of a courtyard building is of course related to my favourite building in architectural history – La Tourette.”
Comprising rectilinear volumes that frame a central courtyard, the building includes 100 cells for the Dominican monks that still inhabit it, as well as a library, refectory, church, classrooms and a distinctive rooftop cloister. Completed in 1960, it was the last major building in Europe completed by the architect before his death.
Whereas the monastery was meant to have a quiet atmosphere, Prix says his goal with the House of Music was to create a “lively inside and outside”.
“Creating special forms, which are the synergy between content and shape – we call it gestalt,” he says. “Gestalt is very lively.”
Coop Himmelb(l)au is known for its playful but technically challenging architectural forms, with buildings often featuring protruding curved sections of steel and glass.
The exterior of the concrete concert hall building features latticed walls and large, circular windows, which can be read as musical notes, says Prix. Inside, round windows give each room a distinct appearance.
“Sometimes you can see the window as a half-circle or as a big circle, and so forth,” says Prix. “And the rehearsal room for the piano looks different than the rehearsal from of the violin.”
Prix says he also wanted to ensure that musicians, whether practising or performing, were always visible. In addition to the circular windows on exterior elevations, the building’s auditorium has windows, enabling students and visitors to peer inside.
“If you see an orchestra working on Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, it’s very, very exciting,” says Prix. “It brings the emotion of hearing the music to another level.”
Prix also explains how his team worked closely with an acoustic specialist on the design of the auditorium. “It’s one of the best acoustic concert halls in the world,” he says. “I’m very proud.”
Spirit of Space also produced a second video about the House of Music. It shows footage of the building, both inside and out, captured from dawn to dusk. It focused particularly on the building’s five-storey atrium, where a concrete staircase winds up through its centre.
“The foyer acts as the main artery and becomes a crossing point between the different cultural, educational and commercial functions,” explains Chicago-based Spirit of Space on its website.
“This shared energy animates the building throughout the day, allowing the potential for an exchange of ideas and knowledge between artists, educators, students and audiences.”
Other recent projects by Coop Himmelb(l)au include a faceted steel and angular glass building to house a natural history museum in Lyon, France, a quilted cloak designed to protect the wearer from unwanted data collection, and the Dalian International Conference Center – a contorted steel building in China with conference halls bursting through its facade.
Prix, who co-founded the firm in 1968, made headlines in 2012 when he published a scathing criticism of that year’s Venice Architecture Biennale, curated by David Chipperfield.
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