Concert Hill – Park Hall
Since the first analysis made on the project site, the importance this place has for the city, both in a historical and an urban aspect, was made clear. The site of the project is at the highest point of a hill that holds a strategic position near other central spots in the city, such as Lukiskiu Square and Gediminas Avenue therefore it is a visible spot that has a dominant position in relation to its immediate context.
The first fact that called our attention is that there are two large green areas around the site destined for the project, which are the northern hillside of Tauras Hill and the Vilnius Evangelical Cemetery. These two areas, with very different uses and purposes, represent two spheres of the individual’s life, and consequently, of the social life of a community, which are the sacred/spiritual and the public/social spheres.
Since the beginning we were convinced that there had to exist a connection between these two areas, both a visual and a physical connection, which at the same time didn’t mutate the quality of each of these spaces, but on the contrary, that allowed and promoted the creation of a third space in which the characteristics of both could coexist.
This connection had to be encouraged by the Concert Hall itself, a building that holds and promotes these values.
As the new home for the Philharmonic Orchestra, the Concert Hall will have as its main objective to transmit, sensitize, and educate the community about the music that for this matter represents a sacred value.
At the same time it will be an open building, public, accessible, transparent, capable of communicating the individuals the sense of belonging to a community, and allowing them to build their sense of identity.
This way, the Concert Hall, by its mere characteristics and reason to be, reunites the spiritual and the public in itself, and that’s why we thought it coherent for it to be presented as a gesture of unity between two spaces that represent those two values.
TOWN PLANNING CONCEPT
The first gesture at an urban level that appeared in our drawings was the search for a visual connection that triggered an encounter between previously mentioned spaces. This led us to suggest a third space, a plaza with a public mission, which represented this unity.
The second gesture was to fill the unevenness of approximately three meters that is found today between the cemetery and the construction site of the Trade Union Palace, through a built elevation (semi-subterranean) that will house the parking lot and several spaces for the services envisioned in the program, and at the same time producing the elevated plaza at the same level as the cementery.
This way, the work with topography causes the hill and the cemetery to penetrate the building and to be found in the central space of the plaza, transforming it into the very heart of the project.
The semi-subterranean elevation becomes a base towards Tauras Hill, raising the building as they did in the ancient temples, to which one entered through a staircase. These staircases found in four opposite points in the plaza, become amphitheaters and suitable areas for outdoors performances.
The main vehicle entrances are the already working one from Tauro Gatvé and the other one from Mykolaičio-Putino Street meant to give access to the staff and the freight transport to the semi-subterranean parking lot.
In the moment of distribution of the different areas, we considered which of them needed to be nearest to the vehicle access, to avoid prolonging these kinds of roads and not having to build new ones.
The pedestrian access is more fluid and clear towards the plaza or the building’s central space, which is the real arrival point. In the northern hillside of Tauras Hill there exist some pedestrian paths and two staircases, which are not accessible for people with mobility impairment. The design for this grand park anticipates ramps and bike lanes, pathways and spaces for contemplative rest or adequate for events. The landscaping design in this area is thought to facilitate the ascent towards the peak of the hill through different transport methods and explore, as well as diversify, the amusement activities that may take place in the new park.
On the basis of the need that has led to present the National Concert Hall of Vilnius, there is a strong European spirit and a desire to experience the public space following the European tradition where the plaza has always had a key role.
The places of encounter and social gathering become the true spaces for learning, where experience and individual emotions may be shared.
The central plaza we propose as the building’s understructure creates a continuum with the topography that comes from the hill to connect with the cemetery. Their program considers several activities of different kinds, some are service activities and others for amusement, some are related to music, others generated by the different spaces the program includes.
This plaza is the central space that we are truly interested in exploring and placing and the center of our project.
The idea, on which the National Concert Hall lies in, is that of a complex system of different uses that complement each other. The building doesn’t want to be only a concert hall, but also, considering the most contemporary tendencies present in public buildings, it seeks to offer a complete experience of encounters and enjoyment.
In the program appears an exhibition hall, a restaurant, bars, business premises, a rehearsal room, offices and service spaces that are part of a secondary support program and complementary to the primary composed by the two concert halls.
This opens the question on how the building will have to operate under different circumstances. We thought that in all those hours when a concert isn’t taking place, the building is still inhabited and is the scenery for other happenings. We thought about the users of every day, not just the visitors, to whose needs the building will have to fulfill.
A building that is always alive and responds the right way to different requirements in different moments, and that has a resource in which these functions mitigate and find their central space, the flexible and multi-purpose lobby, turned into a plaza, a plaza where the secondary program turns into the main program.
The plaza is the place where everything happens: visitors and personnel circulate from one level to another through a large helical staircase, there are free spaces of a great height perfect for an informal performance to take place, the ticket offices are found there, there are also stores, restaurants, and the concert hall foyers lead to this space, relating to it at different heights.
The plaza is a place of free accessibility, it is the entrance to the rest of the spaces, one arrives to it through 4 accesses found in the cardinal points, without there existing any kind of hierarchy among them.
PROGRAM AND FUNCTIONAL LAYOUT
In order to conform the central space, container and content, the program was divided in four volumes of different heights and dimensions that distribute around the lobby. In these volumes all the spaces in the program are assigned and organized in a logical way according to the flows and the characteristics each of them has.
The decision of the locations for the National Concert Hall suggests the demand from this building to be an icon and symbol of the development and contemporary drive of the country’s capital.
A place not only for one to be seen, but also to observe a privileged perspective of the city.
This relation with the city and its skyline appears highlighted by the design of a curved covering, which represents the pre-existent topography of the hill itself.
The covering follows with a sinuous movement the course of the lot, of the plaza, and the closed volumes, sometimes overcoming them, sometimes stopping and discovering them. The covering provides protection to the central space and creates new habitable spaces in the roofs of the volumes that become gazers from where to admire the city.
The curved silhouette of the covering comes followed by a translucent vertical skin that limits the great plaza. The skin is thought as a transparent and permeable element for the sight that will be able to remain open or closed, according to the weather and the necessities, and that allows the free flow of people inside it.
Since the beginning of our projection we took into account some environmental and energetic efficiency criterion, so we could consider them through the design phase.
The environmental impact in the natural context is limited given that excavations to create basements are avoided. All the needs for the service areas of the concert halls are resolved in one single level that is the semi-subterranean elevation attached to the cemetery. This same elevation is also the base towards Tauras Hill, which allows having natural lighting in the habitable spaces inside it.
Using natural light for the habitable spaces was an important criterion when distributing the spaces; in this way we achieve a greater comfort inside and less energetic consumption.
The air conditioning and heating systems are limited to the two concert halls, while the building’s orientation and its opening facing south; help obtain a natural and adequate thermal behavior. The main foyer allows the passing of natural cross ventilations and becomes an important regulator for indoor climate.
The composition of the facade walls is made of concrete elements that provide an elevated thermal inertia, to which the aluminum panels are connected as the exterior finishing. The exterior coating system is continuous to prevent thermal bridges with the structure. The aluminum panels are in contact with thermal insulation that reduces the heat dispersion.
The building’s universal accessibility was another aspect that influenced the design in all the areas of the project. The Tauras Hill Park was designed with ramps for people with mobility impairment, pathways and plazas for resting. The staircases of the four accesses are equipped with ramps to ascend and descend in order to make it possible enjoying these spaces at all time and in any circumstances. We were careful not to extend vehicular roads and to privilege the slow mobility through the adequate infrastructure.
In the main hall’s design the two different configurations for the concert hall were taken into account, the shoebox and the vineyard. The shoebox configuration was chosen for acoustic functioning, this kind of room works respecting the measurements of 25 meters wide and 25 meters tall.
The arrangement of the seats will be in two levels taking advantage of the height to place a second balcony and two side hallways of a single row that allow a proper vision from every point.
This way a capacity of 904 seats is obtained in the main floor, and 748 seats in the first balcony, adding up to 1,652 seats. The model picked for the seats is Senso of 53 cm wide and the depth of the rows is 95 cm.
The 290 square meters stage is found 1,70 meters away from the first row of seats and is limited on the back by the choir’s acoustic wall. The acoustic wall allows musicians to listen to each other during the performance; the choir’s rows could also be used to add seats in the concerts where there is no choir.
To avoid the echo of the sound towards the seats on the lowest levels, a reflector panel is needed on the roof so the sound won’t reflect swiftly and return to the audience; for this reason, the use of a ceiling design that evokes the sinuous shape of the covering of the lobby, formed by a wood paneling where the sound equipment and the equipment necessary for the hall’s operation will be integrated.
The sidewalls are formed by a curved modular pattern leading to the hall’s interior; the inner covering of the wood paneling and the wall’s recess to allow a correct transmission of sound.
Perimeter columns of 1 x 0.50 meters form the hall’s structure, above them, Vierendeel style steel girders form a span of 35 meters, and shape the slanting silhouette of the roof that allows the filtering of the northern light through the acoustic ceiling towards the hall.
Our intention for the design for the main hall’s interior is that the space is cozy and warm, and that it communicates a feeling of comfort to the users, for this reason, the side walls have a slanted geometry that is restricted around the stage. The curved design of the balconies prevents the space from feeling too open or dispersed, and helps the audience feel gathered around the orchestra.
The small hall, or black box, is a hall for several kinds of concerts and shows with a capacity for an audience of up to 498 people. For this space we made a proposal considering various dispositions for the arrangement of the audience and the stage.
This is possible thanks to telescopic seat modules that may be spread or piled along the side walls, and of a stage also assembled also by modular elements, the space of the hall may shift and adapt to various arrangements.
The seats are organized in two levels, the ground floor has 294 seats in the telescopic micro flex model, and the first balcony has 204 fixed seats of the same model.
From the technical point of view, to achieve the optimal performance of the different configurations of the hall, a full flexibility of the roof equipment is needed. This is solved with a metallic modulated grid (cat-walk) suspended to 4.5 meters that takes up the entire hall. The surface finish of the black box interior walls is a sound-absorbing textile that will fulfill this need.
Another aspect that we found relevant is that of taking the music performed inside outside the building. That’s why we considered the possibility of opening the walls of the hall and allowing some performances to happen both inside and outside the hall.
A mechanical system enables the basement to get rid of the dressing and storage rooms, and lowering the stage and the grandstands to the base level of the garden
ENGINEERING TECHNICAL SYSTEM AND STRUCTURAL CONCEPT
Four independent volumes joint around a central space integrate the Concert Hall.
The structures of the volumes are developed independently from each other. The regularity of the four volumes allows remarkably clean and efficient structural systems consisting of rigid frames, concrete columns and horizontal steel structures.
All volumes have a structural core that houses circulations and services that connect to a system of columns and girders. The columns are always enfolded respecting the facades to allow the exterior skin to coat completely the volume and avoid thermal bridges. The central plaza on the contrary, breaks with its curved geometry the regularity of the volumes that contain it.
The geometry of the thin covering, built with concrete, is generated by a straight part and a curved one, and evokes the same topographic work of the understructure; the covering is supported by a subtle system of circular columns with a random pattern that represent the trees of the neighboring parks found inside this large space.
The exterior skin of the four volumes plays a very important role when understanding how the new Concert Hall will blend with the urban context. We seek for a discrete and graceful relation with the surroundings, which doesn’t mean the new building won’t become an icon of contemporary architecture. For this reason, we studied an exterior aluminum skin of a warm golden color that changes its appearance depending on how the sunlight falls upon it, becoming slightly reflective and reacting in different ways to its context, depending on the surrounding conditions.
This skin holds the intention to reflect the building’s surroundings and simultaneously reach a complete symbiosis with the park around it. We aim for architecture halfway between the material and the immaterial, playing with the heaviness of a large structure with strong lines and overpowering volumes that suddenly disappear under the reflection of their own skin.
Vilnus, Lithuania, 2019
IUA in collaboration with Taller Héctor Barroso
Ignacio Urquiza Seoane, Héctor Barroso Riba, Michela Lostia di Santa Sofia, Vianney Watine, Ana Laura Ochoa, León Chávez, María del Mar Carballo, Alan Rojas, Kevin Sandoval, Salvador Saracho, Paulina Robledo, Alice Moreno