Architecture and acoustics

“A commission to design a concert hall is probably one of the most challenging tasks an architect can undertake and, undoubtedly, the most exciting. The many facets include the urban role of the hall as an important marker both physically and to the town’s aspirations; the development of a concept which will attract people to it through the day and night and the design of an auditorium which will match or surpass the best in the country. We set out at the beginning to achieve affordable excellence through a highly disciplined design approach by architects, engineers, acousticians and interior designers. Each space in the building, every piece of construction, had to achieve a number of functions within an extremely tight budget which we hoped would give clarity to the overall design. Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council follows an enlightened policy towards Percent for Art and four artists were each given a commission to work closely with us and the contractor to accentuate aspects of the building. Seldom, if ever, in my career have I worked with a client who has been so involved in every aspect of the project, has respected and encouraged our architectural ideas and yet been extremely forthright in ensuring that our performance matched their expectations. It has been a most stimulating experience for us all and time will tell whether you, the audience, for whom this was created, return stimulated.” Nicholas Thompson, Renton Howard Wood Levin, 1994

“The new Anvil concert hall at Basingstoke is set to become a venue of international reputation, built around its excellent room acoustics. The concert hall seats 1400, an ideal size for the very highest standard of acoustic performance. The arrangement of the seating ensures theatrical intimacy between the audience and the performers. Similarly, the acoustic design ensures that the listener is enveloped in the sound which combines clarity with warmth and reverberance. The gentle convex curves of the side wall panels provide important early lateral reflection, slightly diffused by the curvature to avoid ‘glare’ from highly directional instruments. The strong early sound is balanced by a warm reverberant sound developing within the volume of the auditorium, which is close to 14000m3. The mid-frequency reverberation time of the hall exceeds two seconds. Higher values at lower frequencies support the bass response. Care has been taken to control the number and type of exposed technical fittings to ensure that the full bloom of the sound can develop. The auditorium is comprehensively insulated from external noise. It is cocooned within ‘buffer’ zones and has a double-skin upper wall and roof construction providing excellent protection from external noise. At the same time, noise from building services equipment has been controlled in the planning, by construction of a separate plant tower and use of very low velocity air distribution systems. The auditorium enjoys a very low background noise level, close to NR15. The unique potential of the concert hall will be realised through an adventurous programme of music of international standard.” Richard Cowell, Arup Acoustics, 1994