No orchestra that enjoys a world-wide recognition would dare to ignore this city while making concert plans. What is more, what a few years ago would be unthinkable has now become a fact: the best of the best virtually pass each other at the door of the modern building of the Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra in Katowice.
Musical national pride.
The black diamond from Silesia
For some, it resembles a coal rock; for others, a huge ship whose sides rise high to the roof. The vast concert hall forms the heart of the building which has become the orchestra’s home, designed by Konior Studio, an architectural office from Katowice.
What first comes into view are high brick pillars, one next to another, apparently austere and dumb, but when you come closer, you can discover the architecture full of nuances, which can be read as a musical score. Architecture which never stops surprising the viewer.
Have a look at the walls, rub your hand against them. The bricks on the surface of the pillars are rough, baked with the traditional method in a nineteenth-century furnace, while those lining the recesses are bright red and smooth, as in familok house windows in Nikiszowiec, the most famous protected miners’ housing estate in this area.
In the evenings, light seeps between the pillars and crystal chandeliers glisten inside, This is a promise of a different world that awaits you inside. Those who come in enter a spacious white-walled atrium flooded with light. In its centre, there is a monumental, heavy structure of raw, black-dyed concrete, holding a huge concert hall.
A total of 1800. This is how many music lovers can listen to music here at the same time, which means that the Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra boasts the biggest concert hall and recording studio in Poland. And still this Stradivarius violin-inspired hall bewitches the audience with its chamber-like character. The warm light, comfortable velvet seats, the smooth and soft lines of the balconies, the various shades of noble types of wood present everywhere, all this makes both musicians and listeners feel at home since the very first moment. This is not space designed to impress with its costume or decoration. This is a hall you can fall in love with. It is a combination of a classical box structure (with the stage and the auditorium facing each other) with a vineyard style, where the audience surrounds the stage on all its sides. This solution gives the impression of extraordinary closeness between the artists and the music lovers, at the same time contributing to the exceptional acoustics of the hall.
The seat of the Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra is in fact a building within a building. Adjacent to the outer walls are dressing rooms, rehearsal rooms, recording studios, and even a small hotel. There is also a restaurant, a music shop, and a chamber hall with 300 seats. This outer ring and the atrium provide additional sound insulation to the concert hall against the city noise.
The building is surrounded by a garden area with an amphitheatre, fountains, music toys, and a hornbeam maze. Hornbeam was chosen by Tomasz Konior, the main architect of this site, on the advice of Krzysztof Penderecki, a passionate dendrologist. Indeed, it was Maestro Penderecki, President of the Programme Board of the Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra, who initiated the idea of building a new home for the orchestra, the first one designed specially to meet its unique needs.
Everybody who comes here will see something that can be seen nowhere else in the world.
(…) the sound was so clear. I could hear everything; every sound was crystal clear.
NOSPR is a wonderful hall – one of a small number in the world with an acoustic that brings out every detail of the colours of individual instruments within an orchestral mix.
This hall is a challenge
Krystian Zimerman, another great friend of the Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra, often says that his basic instrument is not the piano but the concert hall. And the Katowice concert hall sounds superb.
It was Krystian Zimerman who introduced Tomasz Konior to Yasuhiso Toyota of Nagata Acoustics, recognised as one of the best acousticians in the world. Nagata Acoustics cooperated in the construction of Suntory Hall in Tokyo, Walt Disney Concert Hall, and Elbphilharmonie in Hamburg. The firm is famous for not relying exclusively on computer simulations while working on the acoustic design; it also creates three-dimensional acoustic models of halls. The model constructed for the Katowice hall, scaled 1:10, represented not only the minutest details of the arrangement, but also the kinds of construction materials selected by the architect, including their texture. This helped to determine with precision the way sound was going to travel inside. The acoustics of the concert hall are adjustable. A system of movable curtains, a plafond above the stage, and side walls with wavy surface help reduce undesirable acoustic effects. Each element here – from the arrangement of the hall, through the types of materials used, to carefully planned smallest details of the design – is subordinated to a single idea, the sound. Thanks to this, one can hear every note coming from the stage and every rustle from the auditorium. The hall is a challenge for both sides.
In terms of acoustics, the hall of the Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra is now regarded as one of the best concert halls in the world.
The seat of the Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra in numbers:
- 820 days of designing;
- 897 days of building;
- 415 planted trees;
- 99.3 x 61.6 x 28.05 m – the length, width, and height of the building;
- 80 pylons of the facade;
- 419 rooms;
- 312 m2 – stage surface in the concert hall;
- 18.4 m –level of the last row of seats on the top balcony;
- 51 m – distance between the last row of seats and the stage;
- 1800 seats in the concert hall;
- 1 October 2014 – inauguration concert at the new seat of the Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra.