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Creating China’s Spectacular Chapel of Sound

Beijing-based OPEN Architecture is putting the finishing touches on its spectacular Chapel of Sound — a boulder-shaped concert hall in a rocky valley at the foot of Jinshanling Great Wall.

Beijing, China (December 9, 2019)—Last month, Beijing-based architect OPEN poured the concrete for the roof of its spectacular Chapel of Sound. The boulder-shaped concert hall sits in a rocky valley at the foot of Jinshanling Great Wall on Beijing’s northern border.

Inside the rocky outcropping is a semi-outdoor amphitheater, an outdoor stage, viewing platforms and supporting spaces.

The last pour of structural concrete for the flat roof took about 24 hours, with workers finishing the surfaces with hand tools as they pushed to complete their work before the Beijing winter settled in. The building is slated to open in the summer of 2020.

 

The spectacular 790 square-meter semi-outdoor concert hall is made of concrete mixed with an aggregate of crushed local, mineral-rich rocks, shaped acoustically for music performances. Openings in the roof and walls pull in the sky and surrounding landscape as well as the sounds of nature; light and rain, bird song and the chirp of insects gently fill the chapel.

The interior shape was inspired by the contours of shells, wooden instruments and the human ear. Through digital optimization, the acoustic properties were reportedly tweaked to produce the best possible sound quality. The openings of the building are placed strategically to avoid unwanted reverberations while simultaneously allowing in natural sounds and views.

The Chapel of Sound was recently recognized in the 66th annual Progressive Architecture (P/A) Awards, chosen as one of 10 projects to receive the commendation. The awards focus on innovative, ongoing works that promote new ways of thinking about architecture. The Chapel of Sound not only reimagines the typology of a concert venue, but asks us to reimagine the definition of a concert itself.

“The layered form of the building takes inspiration from the sedimentary rock formations of the surrounding mountains, while asserting the human hands involved in its construction and avoiding mere mimicry of natural rock,” said Open Architecture in a statement. The company is led by architects Li Hu and Huang Wenjing.

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“When there is no scheduled concert, no choir or instruments playing, the hall still remains a destination, one at which to quietly listen to the sound of birds singing, insects chirping, gentle breezes rustling through nearby trees, or raindrops on the floor,” said the architecture studio. “Inside this mysterious space, nature orchestrates an ever-changing symphony. It is a chapel of sound.”

Open was founded by LI Hu and Huang Wenjing in New York City, and established its Beijing office in 2008.

Project credits:

Client: Aranya

Architect: Open Architecture

Principles-in-charge: Li Hu, Huang Wenjing

Design team: Zhou Tingting, Fang Kuanyin, Lin Bihong, Kuo Chunchen, Hu Boji, Yang Ling, Li Li, Chen Yang

Structural & MEP engineers: Arup

Lighting consultant: Beijing Ning Zhi Jing Lighting Design

Theater consultant: JH Theater Architecture Design Consulting Company

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