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Ostrava sets its sights on world class music with new concert hall

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The City of Ostrava will soon join the ranks of European and international centers of culture. That’s because work is underway in the Moravian-Silesian metropolis on a new concert hall comparable to the world’s most prestigious venues such as the Elbe Philharmonic in Hamburg, the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, the Paris Philharmonic, or the Harpa in Reykjavik. The new building for 1,300 concertgoers will be deftly integrated with the current Culture Center designed by architect Jaroslav Fragner. The design was created by leading American architect Steven Holl and his studio in New York together with the Czech studio Architecture Acts.


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Architectural and acoustic masterpiece

Martin Kropáč, architect and co-designer of the project, describes how the design of the concert hall came about: “The goal was to utilize the current Culture Center to some degree, as it is a cultural monument. We are working with Steven Holl Architects, a world-renowned studio headquartered in New York. I know them well because my partner Hanka Petříkova and I lived in New York a long time. I worked in his office for five years.

Martin Kropáč describes the long dialogue they had with Holl at the beginning of the competition: “We described the location to him and how we thought it could be approached. We were his eyes on site. The dialogue led to the idea that the building would be partly facing the street, while the larger part with the concert hall would be in the quieter park area in back.

Merging the old with the new

The main concept of the design focuses on the harmonic integration of the new hall with the historical Culture Center. “The best solution we came up with for the competition was to take advantage of the park's quiet character and locate the concert hall there for acoustic reasons, but at the same time to create visual contact with the busy boulevard in front,” explains Martin Kropáč.

The esplanade in front of the entrance to the philharmonic was expanded and equipped with urban furniture. “We created a pleasant environment where people can meet before entering the building interior. They then proceed to the box office and coatrooms and use the prominent escalators to reach the third floor of the Culture Center, where the individual seats and balconies of the concert hall are located,” adds Martin Kropáč.

Přečtěte si také Ostrava se chystá na světovou hudební scénu s novou koncertní síní Přečíst článek

A concert hall with unique acoustics

The concert hall is designed based on the “vineyard” concept, where the stage is located in the middle and the audience is closer to the performers. “This hall has a more intimate feel with better parameters for top quality acoustics. From the beginning we have been working with one of the best acoustic engineers in the world, Mr. Toyota from Nagata Acoustics, who has already worked on a number of outstanding halls,” says Martin Kropáč.

The hall’s excellent acoustics are due to curved areas that act as reflective surfaces. “We sought various ways to cover the curved surfaces with wood. We used maple, which contrasts greatly with the industrial steel construction of the hall's sheath,” says Martin Kropáč.


A model for perfect acoustics

To test and verify the acoustics, a 1:10 scale model of the concert hall was created, which is exhibited in the Plato Gallery in Ostrava. The model contains 1,300 seats with tiny mannequins to make the simulation as realistic as possible. “The model was created so that acoustic engineers could verify the assumptions and simulations made during the study. Physical measurements are still necessary because some things cannot be simulated virtually,” explains Martin Kropáč.

History and the future, rolled into one

The current Culture Center, nicknamed the “White Ship”, was designed by Jaroslav Fragner and built during the ‘60s. “It’s a building that deserves to be renovated. In the competition, we actively incorporated it for the Janáček Philharmonic as well as other cultural activities,” says Martin Kropáč.

The building contains a theater for 500 spectators, an historical cinema that will be transformed into an educational center, galleries, a lecture hall, and the original Music Hall, which will become a new chamber hall.

The new cultural icon of Ostrava

Martin Kropáč believes that the new concert hall will not only provide an adequate facility for the Janáček Philharmonic, but will also attract performers who would not normally come to the Czech Republic. “We feel a great responsibility for the project, which is important for Ostrava, the region, and the entire Czech Republic,” concludes Martin Kropáč.

The new concert hall in Ostrava promises to be a unique place that will bring not only world class music to the city, but also new opportunities for cultural enjoyment and social gatherings.



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