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January 20, 2009


For Intimate Music, the Boldest of Designs



COPENHAGEN — It’s usually considered an insult to say that an architect designs pretty packages, let alone that he borrows ideas from a dead genius.


But Jean Nouvel should be forgiven for resurrecting old ghosts. His Copenhagen Concert Hall, which opened here on Saturday evening, is a loving tribute to Hans Scharoun’s 1963 Berlin Philharmonie, whose cascading balconies made it one of the most beloved concert halls of the postwar era. And Mr. Nouvel has encased his homage in one of the most gorgeous buildings I have recently seen: a towering bright blue cube enveloped in seductive images.


It’s a powerful example of how to mine historical memory without stifling the creative imagination. And it offers proof, if any more were needed, that we are in the midst of a glorious period in concert hall design. Like Frank Gehry’s 2003 Disney Hall in Los Angeles and Herzog & de Meuron’s Elbphilharmonie, now under construction in Hamburg, Germany, Mr. Nouvel’s new hall demonstrates that an intimate musical experience and boldly imaginative architecture need not be in conflict — they can actually reinforce each other.




The Copenhagen Concert Hall has the ugliest setting of the three. In a new residential and commercial district on the outskirts of the old inner city, it is flanked by boring glass residential and office blocks. Elevated train tracks running to the old city swing right by the building; swaths of undeveloped land with tufts of grass and mounds of dirt extend to the south.


Approached along the main road from the historic city, the hall’s cobalt blue exterior has a temporal, ghostly quality. Its translucent fabric skin is stretched over a structural frame of steel beams and tension cables that resembles scaffolding. During the day you can see figures moving about inside, as well as the vague outline of the performance space, its curved form embedded in a matrix of foyers and offices.


It is in darkness that the building comes fully to life. A montage of video images is projected across the cube’s fabric surface at night, transforming it into an enormous light box. Drifting across the cube’s surfaces, the images range from concert performers and their instruments to fragments of form and color.


This is the intoxicating medium of late-capitalist culture. You can easily imagine boxes of detergent or adult chat-line numbers finding their way into the mix.





Yet what makes this more than an advertising gimmick is the contrast between the disorienting ethereality of the images and the Platonic purity of the cube. For decades architects have strived to create ever more fluid spaces, designing ramped floors and curved walls to meld the inner life of a building with the street life around it. The ideal is a world where boundaries between inside and out vanish. Yet Mr. Nouvel’s box is more self-contained and arguably less naïve: its solid form, bathed in tantalizing images, is in stark opposition to the sterile desolation around it.




That impression grows once you enter the building, where more projected images blend with real, living people coursing through it. To reach the main performance space, concertgoers can either ride up escalators directly in front of the main entrance or turn to climb a broad staircase.


Just to the left of those stairs are elevators that shoot up to the lobby and upper-level foyers, whose ceilings are decorated in fragmented, overlapping panels. As video images wash over the panels, the pictures break apart so that you perceive them only in fragments, like reflections in broken glass. More images stream across the walls. The effect is a mounting intensity that verges on the psychedelic.


None of this would be effective, however, without Mr. Nouvel’s keen understanding of architecture’s most basic elements, including a feel for scale and materials. The towering proportions of the lobbies, for example, seem to propel you up through the building. When you reach the upper foyers, you feel the weight of the main performance space pressing down on you.


At the same time, views open up from the corners of the building to the outside world. It’s as if you were hovering in some strange interstitial zone, between the banal urban scenery outside and the focused atmosphere of a concert.


This complex layering of social spaces brings to mind the labyrinthine quarters of an Arab souk as much as it does a high-tech information network. That’s largely because Mr. Nouvel’s materials put you at ease: elevator shafts and staircases are clad in plywood, giving many of the spaces the raw, unpretentious aura of a construction site. The building’s concrete surfaces are wrinkled in appearance, like an elephant’s skin, but when you touch them, they feel as smooth as polished marble.


By contrast, the main performance hall wraps you in a world of luxury. Like Scharoun’s cherished hall, Mr. Nouvel’s is organized in a vineyard pattern, with seats stepping down toward the stage on all sides in a series of cantilevered balconies. The pattern allows you to gaze over the stage at other concertgoers, creating a communal ambience. Because the balconies are stepped asymmetrically, you never feel that you are planted amid monotonous rows of identical spectators.


Yet Mr. Nouvel’s version is smaller and more tightly focused than Mr. Scharoun’s. The balcony walls are canted, so that they seem to be pitching toward the stage. A small rectangular balcony designed for the queen of Denmark and her immediate family hovers over one side of the hall, breaking down the scale. The entire room was fashioned from layers of hardwood, which gives it an unusual warmth and solidity, as if it had been carved out of a single block.


The result is a beautifully resilient emotional sanctuary: a little corner of utopia in a world where walls are collapsing. And it underscores what makes Mr. Nouvel such an ideal architect for today. Though he is a deft practitioner of contemporary technology, his ideas are rooted in the historical notion of the city as a place of intellectual exchange. His best buildings hark back beyond the abstract orderliness of Modernism and neo-Classicism to a more intuitive — and human — time.



Copyright 2009 The New York Times Company

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:( Superbe intérieur, mais horrible extérieur, une boite carré qui rappelle un peu (en moins réussi) l'extension du Centre des congrès de Montréal mais les couleurs de l'arc-en-ciel en moins. Nous avons déjà suffisamment d'édifice sans réel intérêt pour s'inspirer d'un design aussi banal.


Il faut quelque chose qui se distinguera des édifices déjà présents à la Place des Arts tout en rehaussant l'image de ce quadrilatère unique de Montréal. Pas évident mais nécessaire afin de marquer fortement un lieu de rassemblement estival de première importance.


Bien sûr l'intérieur doit être à la hauteur avec une acoustique parfaite qui saura rendre justice à un orchestre de première classe. Mais la facture extérieure offre une infinie possibilité de formes, de couleurs et de matériaux qu'il faudra traiter avec talent pour que l'on puisse dire avec admiration que c'est la fameuse salle de l'OSM de Montréal.

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Superbe intérieur, mais horrible extérieur, une boite carré qui rappelle un peu (en moins réussi) l'extension du Centre des congrès de Montréal mais les couleurs de l'arc-en-ciel en moins.


Ça me fais penser un peu à une des propositions pour la salle de l'OSM. C'était un gros cube de verre gris.(environs 5-6 étages de haut)


J'avoue que le gros cube Bleu à Copenhagen est assez spécial avec sa couleur...mais au moins c'est différent.


Tout ce que je demande c'est quelque chose de beau et de bon gout. Bien sûr, si on peu avoir une tour intégrée à ce projet, ce sera encore mieux!

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C'est absolument dans le ton contemporain. Si seulement on se retrouverait avec quelque chose du genre, on pourrait se considérer chanceux. J'ai bien peur qu'on se retrouve avec quelque chose qui soit à la fois contemporain et anodin -ce qui n'est pas le cas de la salle de Copenhagen.

L'intérieur est magnifique !!

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En tous cas, le budget est là pour la future salle de l'OSM et les exigences sont très élevés, surtout au niveau esthétique. Les soumissionaires ont notemment été encouragés à miximiser l'utilisation du bois dans leur proposition. La formule retenu pour déterminer le gagnant avantage largement la qualité sur le prix. En espérant que tous les soumissionaires puissent se rendre jusqu'au dépôt de leur offre financière...

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La salle est inspiré directement du Philharmonie de Berlin fait par l'architecte Hans Sharoun. J'ai eut l'occasion d'assister à un concert célébrant le 60e anniversaire de la mort d'Hitler là bas, c'est vraiment une belle salle.



Voici la répartition des sièges du Copenhagen Concert Hall



Et celle du Philharmonie



Copenhagen Concert Hall



Berliner Philharmonie


L'OSM ne ressemblera pas à ça malheureusement, car le site est bien trop étroit. En fait il ressemblera plus à ça:





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