The Metaphone®, concert hall and urban music instrument
The Metaphone® is the contemporary keystone of the whole project, embodying the site’s new musical and acoustic role. An architecture of materials, sound and light, it is the emblematic space of 9 – 9bis: a building to be looked at and listened to, an immense instrument played by musicians who are alternately invisible or in the limelight. The musical flow of the site strikes its walls and makes them sing. And like music, it evolves in time, in the passing of time: it is transformed into harmonies of sound and colour, fluid, fleeting, but constantly renewed, which will become the spirit of the place.
The Metaphone® is both concert hall and “urban musical instrument”, whose walls produce and diffuse sounds, in harmony with the play of light. The concert hall and its annexes (technical rooms and audience boxes) are contained within a volume of black concrete, itself wrapped in a light skin made of scales of different materials: ground glass, steel, wood... This scaly skin extends outwards and opens above the concourse, forming a great porch protecting the entrance and terrace. Between the concrete mass and the scaly skin, attached to a metallic structure, technical walkways are provided for installing and maintaining the sound and lighting equipment. On the roof, the lattice of scales extends into a sheet of integrated photovoltaic cells. The instrumental elements are made up of plates of different materials, whose acoustic properties have been calculated to produce musical sound. There are two principles of sound production: mechanical or electroacoustic, with vibrating bowls mounted on the plates to form loudspeaker membranes (this technique is commonly used in the car industry). These systems have been developed and tested by making a prototype of the musical facade, composed of 8 modules measuring 1.2 m, half fitted with an acoustic instrument, the other half with vibrating plates.
What can be composed with such an instrument? Obviously, it is not a tool for producing special effects. On the contrary, the aim is to give a totally and resolutely musical shape to a concert hall built on a site dedicated to music. Undoubtably unique. The principles of composition include factors relating to architectural space, materials and light. Factors relating to environment and use, to maintenance and cost... One can only imagine the variety of timbres that can be produced. In addition, the dimensions of the hall offer a playing area great enough for an orchestra bigger than Berlioz himself could ever have dreamed of. It is an exceptional space which will make it possible to invent musical forms commensurate with the architecture. Composers from all over the world will be invited to create works for this auditorium. This is how the originality and power of the project will be maintained.
For the public, the Metaphone® is likely to be a “curiosity”. People will come to Oignies to see and hear it. It will serve as a secular bell, marking the hours, midday or sunset. It will signal the beginning of a concert or the interval, produce a peripheral sound space, discreet so as not to inconvenience the neighbours … It could also be used as an instrument in an orchestral composition, with the musicians playing beneath the porch.
(Fabiana Cambiaso, Università La Sapienza) Credits: www.herault-arnod.fr Figures: © André Morin; © Marie Clérin Concert Hall, Oignies (Pas-de-Calais), France Hérault Arnod Architectes Site: 1 980 m² Completed: 2013 Materials: Frosted Glass, Wood, Corten Steel Applications: Envelope