JS Bach Chamber Music Hall by Zaha Hadid Architects, Manchester

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A few weeks ago, Zaha Hadid Architects have built an installation at Manchester Art Gallery to house the performances of music by Baroque composer Johann Sebastian Bach.

The structure, a translucent, fabric membrane stretched over a steel structure suspended from the ceiling divides and encloses the space, creating a stage, enclosure for the audience and passages into and out of the auditorium. The installation is designed for the Manchester International Festival, the venue hosts a series of concerts which started last Friday and continue until 18 July. Concert details are on the MIF website.

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The following is from Zaha Hadid Architects:

A voluminous ribbon swirls within the room, carving out a spatial and visual response to the intricate relationships of Bach’s harmonies. As the ribbon careens above the performer, cascades into the ground and wraps around the audience, the original room as a box is sculpted into fluid spaces swelling, merging, and slipping through one another.

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“The design enhances the multiplicity of Bach’s work through a coherent integration of formal and structural logic. A single continuous ribbon of fabric swirls around itself, creating layered spaces to cocoon the performers and audience with in an intimate fluid space.” said Hadid.

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The process of realizing the design involved architectural considerations of scale, structure and acoustics to develop a dynamic formal dialogue inseparable from its intended purpose as an intimate chamber music hall.

A layering of spaces and functions is achieved through the ribbon wrapping around itself, alternately compressing to the size of a handrail then stretching to enclose the full height of the room. Circulatory and visual connections are continually discovered as one passes through the multiple layers of space delineated by the ribbon. The ribbon itself consists of a translucent fabric membrane articulated by an internal steel structure suspended from the ceiling. The surface of the fabric shell undulates in a constant but changing rhythm as it is stretched over the internal structure.

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It varies between the highly tensioned skin on the exterior of the ribbon and the soft billowing effect of the same fabric on the interior of the ribbon. Clear acrylic acoustic panels are suspended above the stage to reflect and disperse the sound, while remaining visually imperceptible within the fabric membrane.

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Images courtesy of Zaha Hadid Architects, © Luke Hayes.

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