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Design Concepts For Performance Spaces

Part 1 Dissertation 2001
Ian Catherall
University of Huddersfield Huddersfield UK
There have been many theories, past and present, that architecture and the experience of spaces are somehow connected aesthetically to music. Architecture and music are both creative disciplines that stimulate the limits of the imagination.
Contemporary performance architecture such as theatres and concert halls have to concentrate more on the increasing technical requirements such as acoustics, circulation and current building regulations. These are required by an ever more demanding audience, performers and the various statutory bodies. The concentration on the technical specifications has often been at the expense of the quality of the architecture and the spatial experiences.
The purpose of the study is to assess whether it is preferable to design contemporary performance buildings based on the inspiration of an principles found in music, as opposed to designing in the standard fashion of form following function. Performance spaces are complex buildings that should reflect the performances given inside as well as satisfying technical requirements. The experience should start on the street, on approaching the building itself, and not when you are seated. The question raised is: should music be the departure point for the design concept?
The study examines all architecture and music parallels from Pythagoras to present day and analyses various case studies within this context. To this end, new ideas are discussed for conceptual thinking. This, in turn, would stimulate the imagination and lead to the creation of new, exciting and imaginative spaces.

Ian Catherall

The relationship between architecture and music presents a significant challenge and Ian Catherall confronts it with enthusiasm and scholarship, achieving a wide-ranging response. The study is well researched, using existing sources as a basis for exploring new perspectives. These are illustrated in a critical analysis which makes reference to historical examples (Le Corbusier and Xanakis at La Tourette and the Phillips Pavillion), contemporary designers (Jan Hoogstad and Frank Gehry) and student project work (the Soundscapes programme at Edinburgh). All of these display exciting and innovative ways in which the relationship between architecture and music has been considered and expressed.

The study, which is beautifully presented, is motivated by the student’s own interest in music and musical composition and underpins the conceptual stages of his subsequent design project for a concert hall in Edinburgh.

Peter Clements

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