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Aspen Ideas Festival: How the vineyard style trumped the shoebox

Yasuhisa Toyota, the world's foremost acoustician, explains the design that let audiences see and
hear great orchestras
What is the source of the rich, beautiful sound of a great concert hall? Even those who make their
living from designing and building some of the world's best concert halls confess that it is despite
computer aided design and modern acoustic techniques still a mystery.

Take New York's Carnegie Hall. "Nobody knows why it sounds so good if they did they would copy
it," says architect Richard Olcott, who has designed Stanford University's new Bing Concert Hall and
worked on the restoration of Carnegie Hall itself.

Yasuhisa Toyota, the acoustician behind the acclaimed Walt Disney Concert Hall clad by Frank
Gehry's masterpiece in Los Angeles, says acoustic quality remains a mystery as much as music itself:

Many people talk about acoustics as a mysterious thing I would agree but it's a more complex

If a concert hall is empty and there's no music, then we can't hear the acoustics. When we evaluate
acoustics we need musicians on the stage and then we are having a discussion about music. And
isn't music a mysterious thing?

Olcott agreed: "We can do all the computer modelling in the world but it can never replicate the
human experience."
Toyota and Olcott were speaking at the Aspen Ideas Festival on the concertgoing experience, one
that has been radically changed by modern design.

Concert hall design used to be simple enough: the classical shape known as the "shoebox" with an
orchestra at one tall, narrow end and the audience facing them in seried ranks.

Various attempts to tamper with the shoebox's simplicity never quite succeeded acoustically:
London's Royal Festival Hall and the Verizon Hall in Philadelphia's Kimmel Centre being two of the
unhappier attempts.

But in the 1960s came the "vineyard style", a ground-breaking design pioneered at the Berliner
Philharmonie hall and later at the Suntory Hall in Tokyo.

Suddenly, the orchestra was opened up and surrounded by the audience on all sides in boxes around
the central stage, but without the acoustic problems of earlier attempts, the boxes reflecting the
sound back towards the stage.

Rather than just hear the orchestra, as the shoebox favoured, the vineyard style allowed almost
every seat a clear view of the stage. "It's amazing," Toyota said. "This is what we never experienced
in the conventional seating style."

The Vienna Mozart Orchestra in the Golden Hall at the Musikverein in Vienna, Austria
The 'shoebox': the Golden Hall at the Musikverein in Vienna
And while traditionalists might prefer the Musikverein of Vienna or its modern incarnation, the
McDermott hall in Dallas, purists could not fault the acoustic quality of the new designs.
Toyota is undoubtedly the greatest exponent of the vineyard style, as the acoustician behind the
Suntory Hall "a jewel box of sound," according to von Karajan as well as the Walt Disney Concert
Hall and the extraordinary Kitara in Sapporo.

"I think the vineyard style hall has big advantages, not only for acoustics" which justified it above the
"simpler" shoebox style, said Toyota, describing his "psycho-acoustics" that benefited the audience
as much as the orchestra:

Concerts are competing with CDs or DVDs. What's the choice? To purchase a CD or a concert ticket.
But the thing about a CD, the sound is so clear, it's not necessary to be seated in a concert space.

Being able to see the orchestra so clearly, as the vineyard style allows, added to the "concert
experience" that couldn't be matched by recordings.

But for all that, even Toyota says the quality of performance must trump even the best acoustics.
Offered the choice between hearing a student orchestra in a great acoustic venue, or a great
orchestra such as those of Vienna or Berlin in a "bad space," Toyota doesn't hesitate: "Between
those I would choose the Berlin or Vienna Philharmonic."

Shoe-box shaped' concert halls make music more emotional

When Sir Simon Rattle suggested London lacked a truly world-class concert hall, music-lovers may
have been forgiven a patriotic bristle in support of its venues.

But it appears he was right all along, as a scientific study showed music played in concert halls on the
continent evoked more emotional reactions than the capital's star venues.

The best classical concert halls are shaped like a shoebox, according to a study, ruling out the likes of
the Royal Festival Hall, Royal Albert Hall and the Barbican.

The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America reports those with the rectangular design, such as
Vienna Musikverein or Berlin Konzerthaus, are most likely to produce sounds that make the hairs on
the back of the audience's neck stand up.

Dr Jukka Patynen, of Aalto University, Finland, said: "Some interpretations of the same music piece
can evoke stronger emotions than others.

"Similarly, our study has succeeded in demonstrating the hall's acoustics plays an important part in
the overall emotional impact.

"After all, emotional experiences are a key factor in music to many listeners."

Earlier research had shown the most moving pieces of music elicit shivers or goosebumps in the
listener, and these reactions may even be detected from the variations in the electrical conductance
of the skin.

Researchers presented 28 test subjects, whose ages ranged from 22 to 64, with an excerpt of
Beethoven's Symphony No 7.
The actual experiment was carried out using a surround loudspeaker system in a listening room
reproduced to mimic rectangular, or non-rectangular, concert halls of six European venues including
Vienna Musikverein, Amsterdam Concertgebouw, Berlin Konzerhaus and Philharmonie, Cologne
Philharmonie and Helsinki Music Centre.

During listening, the skin was measured with sensors attached in the listeners' fingers in order to
record the magnitude of the emotional reactions to different acoustic conditions.

The results revealed an identical performance of the music evoked stronger impact when presented
in the acoustics of shoebox type concert halls, such as Vienna Musikverein or Berlin Konzerthaus.

In a second, more conventional experiment, the participants were asked to choose the the halls that
produced a higher overall impact on them, with Vienna Musikverein easily coming out ahead
followed by Berlin Konzerthaus.

The results could bode well for a new concert hall proposed for London, which is currently in

Destined for the current site of the Museum of London, architects are already being consulted about
a possible design, with a feasibility study confirming a hybrid of the "shoebox" and alternative
"vineyard" styles is likely to be favoured.

A Note on the Vineyard Style

Stanfords Bing Concert Hall, designed by Richard Olcott of ennead architects and the acoustician
Yasuhisa Toyota of Nagata acoustics, is built in the vineyard style.

The term alludes to the way in which the seating is arranged in raked tiers, like sloping terraces in a
vineyard. Surrounded on all sides by these terraces, the performance area is positioned near the
center of the auditorium, instead of being located at one end, as it would be in the conventional
rectangular (shoebox) hall or in the less common fan-shape format. (The latter is used, for example,
in Stanford Universitys Dinkelspiel Auditorium.) The spatial concept of the new halls design owes
both to acoustic and to visual considerations: since none of the 842 seats is more than 16 rows away
from the stage, every audience member is afforded an intimate and focused listening experience
with unobstructed lines of sight.

The vineyard style first appeared in German concert-hall design of the 1950s, beginning with the
752-seat Mozart-Saal, built in 1956 as one of several halls that make up the Liederhalle in Stuttgart.
Architectural historians generally agree, however, that the 2,440-seat Philharmonie in Berlin should
be considered the paradigm-shifting model. Designed by Hans Scharoun in collaboration with the
acoustician of the Mozart-Saal, Lothar Cremer, the internationally famous home of the Berlin
Philharmonic Orchestra was finally completed in 1963 after several years of protracted planning and
three years of construction. Toyota subsequently adapted the model for several of his concert halls,
which include Suntory Hall in Tokyo (1986), Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles (2003), New
World Center in Miami (2011), and now Bing (2013).

The construction follows the image of a landscape, Scharoun explained in his address delivered at
the Philharmonies consecration. The auditorium is conceived as a valley, and there at its floor, the
orchestra resides, surrounded by the rising terraces of a vineyard. The ceiling encounters this
landscape like a skyscape. Formally, it has the effect of a tent. Proceeding from the notion that
people today, as in all ages, form a circle when improvised music is performed, the architect
wanted to transfer this natural occurrence, comprehensible to all psychologically as well as
musically, to the concert hall. Within the metaphorical setting of a natural idyll, in which the
orchestra and conductor are completely enveloped by their audience, he was envisaging a place in
which, as he said, There is no opposition of producers and consumers; rather, a community of
listeners is grouped in a dynamic way and on various levels around the orchestra.

Peter Bing described the hall that bears his familys name as a place of concert in every sense.
By mixing nature imagery with language borrowed from the social sciences, Scharoun was situating
his formal solution to the architectural challenge in a broad cultural context that had directly
affected his own professional history. During the years of National Socialist rule, he had been barred
from public projects and restricted to designing small houses. If Scharouns description of his
conception betrayed the formation of his thinking in prewar culture, it also made a strong statement
about the significance of the Philharmonie as a democratic symbol in the postwar period. The mayor
of West Berlin, Willy Brandt, noted in the speech he gave at the consecration that the hall had been
planned before the Iron Curtain had gone up in 1961. This building, he said, is built facing the
fellow citizens in the other half of the city. And this will prove to be correct more than ever when the
wall no longer exists. Here we have the two realities of the city. Here we have the courage and spirit
that guide our path forward.

Comprehending music in sociopolitical terms formed a central concern of prewar German writers
such as the music critic Paul Bekker, and it is hard to imagine that Scharoun was not familiar with
Bekkers books and articles, which were widely read at the time. For Bekker, who promoted classical
musics socially formative power, there was one work in particular that embodied that power
Beethovens Ninth Symphony.

(The 1963 inaugural concert at the Philharmonie featured a performance of the Ninth, conducted by
Herbert von Karajan.) No piece of music, before or since, lent such engaging expression to the
community ideal that lay at the heart of Bekkers critical writings on the symphony as a genre and, at
the same time, inspired his vision of the concert hall of the future. In Das deutsche Musikleben
(German Musical Life, 1916), probably his best-known and most widely disseminated publication,
Bekker offered the following account of how the terms underpinning his sociological interpretation
of Beethovens symphony would translate into a spatial conception:

What the concert hall should be in terms of what it offers us and in how the society that brings it to
life is composed: the expansion and consolidation of church and community center in the modern
erathat is something the concert hall should be in and of itself as a space, informing the layout of
the architectural design. The orchestra should not be placed at a remove, as is usual nowadays,
inserted into a niche that was originally foreign to the spatial-design idea. It must form, like the
sanctuary of the church, the center and goal of the whole structure.

In his reaction to Bekkers book, fellow critic Artur Bogen described the ideas about concert-hall
architecture in a way that, as the Bekker scholar Andreas Eichhorn has suggested, uncannily
anticipates Scharouns own design:

Thought provoking, too, are your observations about the music building of the future, i.e., concert
hall. An architect, it seems to me, should make an attempt to design a space in which the orchestra
is arranged completely differently from before, namely, freely in the middle of the room, perhaps
with an elliptical vault; the orchestra would then form the focal point.
For the orchestra to form the focal point, the genre of the symphony first had to develop from its
aristocratic beginnings in the mid-18th century, when it initially functioned as little more than
background music during society gatherings, to its ennobled aesthetic status in the public sphere of
the 19th century. When the first orchestral symphonies by composers such as Johann Stamitz were
performed at the court of Karl Theodor in Mannheim in the 1740s, the musicians in the electors
service occupied a niche at the side of the hall, while members of court seated at little tables
conversed, drank tea, and played cards. Such audience behavior in symphony concerts would change
radically over the next two centuries, of course, evolving into the more familiar attitude of hushed

The transformation of the concert from court entertainment into a firmly established institution of
bourgeois society on a par with organized religion is reflected both in the emergence of a
subscription- buying public and in the scale, complexity, and metaphysical ambitions of the
symphonic works themselves. Architecture, however, arguably lagged behind in fully embracing the
spirit of the music. Beethovens choral symphony, with its Ode to Joy, may have conveyed the
image of a world in which all men become brothers, but it took the vineyard styleimagined by
Bekker and realized by Scharounto erase the last vestiges of social hierarchy inherent in the
architecture of opera houses and concert halls, with their socially stratified boxes and seating plans.
In a vineyard-style concert hall such as Bing, the chorus performing the final movement of the Ninth
(the producers) literally takes the place of some of the audience members (the consumers)
seated behind the orchestra.

Architecture, according to Schellings much-quoted definition, is frozen music. And it seems only
fitting that buildings for music should possess musical qualities in the purely formal sense of
Schellings metaphor. Indeed, these qualities are manifested throughout Bing in the striking visual
counterpoint of sinusoidal motifs. By means of this prominent design element, sound is represented
figuratively in space. Yet appreciating the success of a representative public building such as this
ultimately has to do with the way in which structure relates to purpose, how the architectural design
accommodates the people it serves, not only the individual performers and audience members but
also the community as a whole.

Therein lies the organic unity of the vineyard style. In the moving speech that he gave at the ground-
breaking ceremony in May 2010, Peter Bing described the hall that bears his familys name as a
place of concert in every sense. Form and function are beautifully attuned.
Stephen Hinton is the Denning Family Director of the Stanford Arts Institute.

First vineyard-style music hall opens

Korea's first classical music concert hall with vineyard style seating will open in Seoul at the Lotte
Concert Hall in Jamsil's Lotte World Mall in eastern Seoul.

The concert hall which is due to open on Aug. 18 is the first vineyard style concert hall in Korea and
the first classic music hall opening since the one at Seoul Arts Center opened in 1988.

The "vineyard style" refers to a style where the audience seats surround the center stage so that the
viewers can enjoy an intimate auditory experience. Such style is adopted by several distinguished
concert halls around the world such as the Berliner Philharmonie in Germany, the Philharmonie de
Paris in France, and Suntory Hall in Japan, whose acoustics were designed by Nagata Acoustics which
also designed the acoustics for the Lotte Concert Hall.
The vineyard style originated from an architectural style adopted from the 1950s when German
concert halls started renovating their auditoriums after the Second World War. The name comes
from the shape which resembles a tiered grape vineyard commonly seen in the West.

The peculiar design of the 2,036-seat concert hall draws awe at first sight due to its beauty. The view
seen from above reminds the viewers of a rose petal blooming, with the performers at the rose bud
and the audience at the petals. The seats at the hall are tiered and exquisitely designed to minimize
excess space. This gives much option to the, such as seats facing the orchestra, seats facing the
conductor or seats at the sides which offer a 45 degree view facing the conductor. Differentiating
greatly from the regular showbox style or fan-shaped concert halls, the vineyard style hall was
designed for not only acoustics, but also aesthetics.

The pipe organ, featuring 5,000 pipes, is another notable feature of the music hall. Situated behind
the center stage, the organ draws awe due to its grandeur as well as sound. It was designed and
produced by Austria's Rieger and took three years to complete.

The Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra (SPO) conducted by Chung Myung-whun will perform at the
opening concert in August, bringing down the barriers between the audience and the performers,
allowing the audience to feel involved in the performance.

"Everything was considered for the sound. The arch shaped design, the reflector on the ceiling, the
cloud shaped design and the bumps on the walls were all designed to deliver sound properly to the
audience," said Park Se-hwan, director of DMP Construction which carried out the construction of
the hall, explaining how the hall was built prior to the performance.

"We focused on eliminating noise. We blocked exterior noise and captured interior sound with the
box-in-box structure. The low walls reflect the sound to come back to the audience and the overall
structure allows performers to hear their own sounds."

Many journalists and music critics pointed out, however, that the sound differed much depending on
the location of the seat. The general consensus was that the sound was a bit dull at the center seats
in front of the stage, which was the most expensive seats, while the cheaper seats on the second
floor and on the sides provided clearer sound.

Tickets are currently open for 22 concerts scheduled until the end of this year and the "package"
tickets offering more than five performances will be discounted by 30 percent until July 15.

Concert halls call on this Japanese engineer to shape sound

Behind some of the world's most reputed concert halls is a Japanese engineer whose finesse in
shaping sound is so perfectly unobtrusive that all listeners hear is the musicin all its subtlety,
texture and fullness.
Yasuhisa Toyota's talents are coveted as classical music venues are increasingly designed in
"vineyard style," where audiences surround the stage to hear the performers up close and enjoy an
almost-interactive experience, feeling more like a part of the music and being able to be seen and
respond to it.
Toyota's Nagata Acoustics has just 20 employees globally, but it dominates acoustics work for halls
in Japan and is expanding abroad. He's designed the acoustics for orchestras in Los Angeles, Helsinki,
Paris and Shanghai. Another of his projects, the Elbephilharmonie concert hall in Hamburg, opened
Jan. 11.
Still, when asked to summarize the reason for success, Toyota hesitates. So many factors are
involved in fine-tuning acoustics, and each hall has a different design, creating fresh challenges.
"No one can explain in one word why a Stradivarius violin sounds so beautiful, or how the way it was
made may have shaped that beautiful sound," Toyota said in a recent interview at his Tokyo home.
"Whether sound is beautiful, clear or pleasant is extremely complex," he said. "So when we're
talking about acoustics in a concert hall, there is basically that space itself."

Toyota, 64, is not a musician but was raised listening to and loving classical music. The company
founded in 1971 has headquarters in Tokyo and Los Angeles, which is Toyota's main home these
days as he oversees Nagata's projects outside Japan.
Toyota coined the expression "psycho-acoustics" to describe the importance of emotions and other
senses in sound. Would a pink violin, for instance, sound as good as a brown one, he asks?
"There is discussion about a formula for acoustics because sound is invisible. People don't ask those
questions about visual design," said Toyota, whose carefree flair, quick wit and laugh are unusual
among Japanese of his usually staid generation.
At times sounding like a Zen monk when he talks about the art of sound, Toyota says crafting
acoustics requires a thorough knowledge of building materials, close collaboration with architects,
comprehension of musicians' needs, computerized simulations, use of scale models of the halls and
analysis of reverberating sound.
The thickness of a wall, its shape, material and curves, the fixtures hanging from the ceiling, and the
musicians themselves all affect acoustics. In the old-style shoebox design of concert halls, where the
audience sits in rows facing the stage, the sound is easier to control. The vineyard format is trickier.

David Howard, a bass clarinetist with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, has played in several halls
Toyota has worked on and says he appreciates the direct, clear and full, and intimate nature of their
"In that sense, Mr. Toyota hit a home run," he said.
Apart from the just opened Elbephilharmonie, Toyota has done the acoustics for Stanford
University's Bing Concert Hall, Helzberg Hall at Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts in Kansas
City, Missouri, and the Chamber Hall at the Museo Del Violino in Cremona, Italy. His first major
overseas project was the Walt Disney Concert Hall, which opened in 2003, for the Los Angeles
The acoustics of the hall the Los Angeles orchestra used before were so bad that musicians
overplayed to compensate, and that carried over to other venues.
"The ideal environment," Howard said, "is one where I can feel unencumbered in terms of being
concerned about my individual sound, and I can just play, so that the ingredients are such that I
don't have to worry about it being beautiful enough, or loud enough, or clear enough, that those
things are more or less taken care of for me, so that I can just make music."

Toyota's fame started with Tokyo's majestic Suntory Hall, but its 1986 opening was a nightmare, he
It took time for the musicians to adjust to its finely tuned acoustics. That process can take several
years. But these days, musical experts agree the acoustics in Suntory Hall are impeccable.
Toyota said he asks all musicians to play more softly while adjusting to a new venue where he's
"When all 80 people are nervous and playing in all directions, then there is utter chaos on stage," he
Japan's love for classical music and Toyota's talent were evident at a recent Japan Philharmonic
Orchestra performance at Suntory Hall of Bruckner's "Symphony No. 8 in C minor."
Kikue Sugimito, a long-time Japan Philharmonic season-ticket holder, remembers being awed by the
sound quality when the orchestra moved from its previous venue to Suntory Hall.
"There is a transparence about the sound here," she said.
Pietari Inkinen, the conductor, said the hall was so close to perfect any kind of piece could be played,
inspiring the performers because listeners can feel the symphony "in their stomachs."
"This is really one of the best halls in the world," he said. "You can play unbelievably softly and it
carries to the last row."
The architect Frank Gehry, who worked with Toyota on Disney Hall, says the aim in designing a
concert hall is to make the space comfortable and interactive for all in the room.

Gehry and Toyota donated their work to build a hall, opening in March, for Berlin's Barenboim-Said
Akademie, which was founded by conductor and pianist Daniel Barenboim and the American-
Palestinian scholar Edward W. Said to educate and bring together young musicians, including Arabs
and Israelis.
"In music, you're taking sounds and putting them together to create beauty and a feeling. When you
do a building, you're taking inert materials and putting them together to create beauty and a
feeling," said Gehry, who admires Japanese culture, including gagaku music and architecture, and,
especially, Toyota.
"You make the space comfortable, interactive and humane so that people feel together in the room
and people feel together with the orchestra. The orchestra feels the relationship with the people.
And it makes it better. That was what we tried to do. We could talk about it that way," said Gehry in
a telephone interview from Los Angeles.

"I love working with himan enriching treat beyond belief," he said.
Although architects and acousticians sometimes don't get along, as they infringe by definition on
each other's turf, Toyota told a story about the cross-cultural collaborative relationship he has with
Gehry, joking about sharing blame equally if Disney Hall were to fail.
"So he tells me, 'Yasu, if things don't go well, let's commit harakiri together. But you have to do it
first, and I'm following because I have no idea how to do it.' My response was, 'Frank, you have to do
it first. If I did, there will be no one who can help you. I can help you. You should go first. I'm going
after you.' "