Chapel of Sound, Chengde, China
Nestled in a mountainous valley two hours away by car from the center of Beijing, The Chapel of Sound is a monolithic open-air concert hall with views to the ruins of the Ming Dynasty-era Great Wall. Designed by Beijing-based architecture office, OPEN, to look as a mysterious boulder that had gently fallen into place, the building is built entirely from concrete that is enriched with an aggregate of local mineral-rich rocks, and encompasses a semi-outdoor amphitheater, outdoor stage, viewing platforms, and a green room. While designed to capture the unfamiliar and deeply touching experience of music performed in the cradle of nature, the architects also wanted people just to calm down and listen to the sound of nature, which they believe is profoundly inspiring and healing. When there is no performance, the concert hall is also a tranquil space for contemplation and community gatherings with stunning views of the sky and the surrounding landscape.
OPEN’s founding partners Li Hu and Huang Wenjing were driven by a desire to minimise the footprint of the concert hall in the valley, creating a structure that was in dialogue with impressive natural landscape, while also feeling undeniably man made. The resulting rock-like structure is composed of an inner and outer shell with the space between operating like a truss, and was ultimately achieved through close collaboration with international engineering firm, Arup. Formed from concrete, each striation cantilevers out from the previous layer to create the inverted cone shape. Winding staircases weave through the building to a rooftop platform that offers panoramic views of the valley and Great Wall. In the interior spaces, accents of bronze for details such as handrails and doors are used to create a warm contrast against the concrete. The brief for the project was very open which inspired the architects to research all aspects of performance, looking at how the behaviors of sound could be a driving force behind the final shape of a building; Li and Huang described wanting to: “see the shape of sound”. Ultimately, they were drawn to the ways sound reverberates in natural spaces such as caves. Having designed theaters and concert halls, they knew the challenges here was how to create excellent acoustic environment without introducing additional sound absorbing materials. Working with acoustic engineers, OPEN looked at the many ways people will experience sound in the concert hall and defined openings that act both as the sound absorption areas and providing a connection with the exterior environment.
OPEN Said: “We were very aware of the responsibility we had to contribute a thoughtful structure that fits naturally into such a unique landscape. We wanted to create something different, and more importantly, something meaningful. We are now at a time that the question of our relationship with nature as human beings is more acute than ever. Can we be humble enough to hear what nature is murmuring to us? The symphony of nature is what we really wanted people to experience here.” There is an inherent air of mystery around the Chapel of Sound that draws you in as you approach the building. This extends to how people will interact with the space, from being a place for individual reflection to a venue for large-scale concerts, the structure can be experienced in many different ways. Huang said: “We wanted the definition of the space to be not so absolute, thus allowing for possibilities. Solitary or communal, music or sound of nature, gazing into the starry sky or connecting with one’s inner self - it’s open to the interpretation of the users”. With no heating or air-conditioning, the Chapel of Sound consumes minimum energy, something OPEN was very conscious of when designing the building. The openings also allow the natural elements to come inside, a void in the centre of the rooftop allows daylight to enter the structure and naturally illuminates the performance spaces. When it rains the water will also cascade through the void, however, inspired by the Pantheon, OPEN designed a drainage system that quickly drains the water away.
Li and Huang spent over 10 years training and working in the United States and as a result are very conscious of moving away from traditionally “Eastern” or “Western” ideas of architecture, particularly when it comes to cultural spaces. OPEN understands that the perceived differences in how cultures experience events and spaces are overstated and through their architecture strive to demonstrate that architecture has the power to connect people with each other, with nature, and with our own past and future.
山谷音樂廳位於距北京市區約 2 小時車程的河北承德金山嶺，建築如同一塊來自遠古的巨石，降落在可以遠眺長城的山谷。該專案由OPEN創始合夥人李虎和黃文菁主持設計，兩位建築師表示：「這是一座由聲音出發、由內而外雕刻而成的建築。我們稱它為 Chapel of Sound，希望人們可以『看到』聲音的形狀，或者『聽到』寂靜的聲響。」建築師希望這座音樂廳可以成為一處庇護所，建立人與自然的深層連接。在這裡，人們能感知到陽光、雨雪和四季的變化，或者聽到平常忽略掉的鳥叫蟲鳴。
建築室內外連通，讓耐候的混凝土成為了最合適的材料選擇。整座建築由深灰色混凝土澆築，混凝土骨料混合了當地富含礦物質的岩石。立面分層的靈感來源於周圍山脈的沉積岩，層層堆疊的方式和平整的切割則表達了人工建造的理性，而非對石頭形態的簡單模仿。建築的形態是對場地的直接回應：上大下小的倒錐形的結構，既順應著山谷的形態，也以最小的足跡輕輕地落在山谷底部，將對周邊環境的影響降到最少。同時，它也是音樂廳內部階梯狀觀眾席的外在表達。結構工程師奧雅納（Arup）與 OPEN 密切合作，完成了極富挑戰性的結構設計：立面的層層懸挑，最遠處達 12 米，如懸崖峭壁般撲面而來；結構由兩層混凝土殼體組成，兩層殼體之間在重要受力部位相互聯結。無論是定制的不銹鋼大門，還是青銅的標識牌、扶手，甚至手工打磨的衛生間銅鏡，都以其溫潤的光澤和觸感，與粗糲的混凝土形成強烈對比。剛勁的線條突出了混凝土的力量感，無數折面讓建築在陽光的雕刻下有了金屬的光澤。在室內洞穴般原始的氛圍中，也充滿了精心設計的細節。雨水可以從屋頂的洞口落下來，並沿著設計好的路徑迅速流走，不影響大部分觀眾席。
Principal Architects: Li Hu, Huang Wenjing
Structural Engineering: Arup
Character of Space: Semi-outdoor Amphitheater, Green Room, Viewing Terrace, Outdoor Stage
Building Area: 790㎡
Principal Structure: Concrete
Location: Chengde, Hebei Province, China
Photos: Jonathan Leijonhufvud, Zhu Runzi
Text: OPEN Architecture
Collator: Katrina Wong