The Prospects and Promise of a New Hall for the London Symphony Orchestra
With the appointment of Sir Simon Rattle as the new music director of the grandest of London's many great orchestras come excited whispers about the possibility of a new concert hall for the city's brilliant but beleaguered classical music scene. It is not too early to begin the conversation about how to imagine and understand such a hall – nor is it too late to assert how badly indeed it is needed. Here we will collect the thoughts and dialogues on the subject that we hope will make a difference in the debate that will inevitably ensue.
We have become used to concert halls that make big bold statements: the looming sculptural forms of the Philharmonie in Paris, the metallic sails of Disney Hall in Los Angeles, the giant glass barrel vault of the Kimmel Center for Performing Arts in Philadelphia. The Kleinhans is curiously elusive.
Designing with this particular attitude towards context does not mean we will arrive at one universally perfect solution every time. If we follow this formula, however, we are most likely to arrive at a building that will be relevant to, embraced and even loved by, the greatest number of people who will see it, visit it, or touch it on any given day.
Performance spaces today are designed to be stand-alone icons, but that’s not how we always designed these buildings.
London should think carefully about where to build its newest cultural venue. And Léon Krier’s Regent’s Park proposal beats Boris’s commercial opportunism, says Hank Dittmar.
There is a choice location for London’s unrivalled musical offerings that, as far as I know, is yet unconsidered – namely, Park Square and Crescent. Here, in the green “vestibule” of Regents Park, in proximity to the Royal Academy of Music, a new concert hall, a chamber music hall, a state of the art educational facility, practice rooms, restaurants and exhibition galleries can form a new urban ensemble that includes the complementary amenities required for successfully supporting the London Symphony Orchestra’s mission.
The modern concert venue is designed with only two things in view: to create a space uniquely designed for a kind of laboratory listening, and to announce to the world the arrival of yet another architect of genius. The combination of inner sterility and outer megalomania essentially cuts the venue off from the life around it. The resulting hall is not part of the city but stands in opposition to it, defiant testimonial to a dying culture.
Both the LSO and London itself need and deserve a new concert hall – one that is fitting for the future of the city’s prestigious musical life and one that makes sense for the sake of its own success. It should be a beautiful and harmonious part of the face and community of London, and not a thumb in its eye and a middle finger to everyone else.
Modernism in architecture and music is very much like the artificial invention of a language, like Esperanto. Esperanto was used by tradesmen and by a very small number of people. But imagine that a very powerful political group took over not just a province or a country, or even a continent, but over the world and imposed Esperanto as a single language, forbidding all other languages and declaring them as purely historical – no longer valid, no longer legitimate for use today. That is what has happened to architecture and even to music.