Music is art, and each artform deserves its due diligence and respect. With multi-functional spaces like the concert halls, exhibition spaces and rehearsal rooms, The Philharmonie de Paris in Paris is the musical hub of the city. The complex is in the Parc de la Villette on the northeastern edge of Paris. In the heart of the complex is a 2400 seat concert hall designed by Jean Nouvel.
The Philharmonie was visioned a long time ago and was part of the initial Cite de la Musique with various music rooms and amphitheatres. The Philharmonie provides an exemplary concert hall desperately needed in Paris. It also provides various spaces for resident or invited orchestras to host public activities.
The architect, Jean Nouvel envisioned this complex to open music and its magic to the common public. The public and the artist cross paths and it truly is an exchange of experiences and life.
A competition was announced for the concert hall. The design brief asked for a 2500 seat hall with “innovation and modernity in concert hall design”. The competition urged for unique acoustic design which did not adhere to conventional design approaches.
Site And Proposal
Jean Nouvel won the competition. The 2400 seat proposal is like no other in Paris. The spiralling aluminium forms surround the central concert hall. The hall seeks to “invent a model all it’s own” according to the official website. It creates intimate spaces between the audience and the performance.
As Jean Nouvel says, “Each new situation requires a new architecture.” The 52 meters high structure is a landmark in North-East Paris. The structure being at the compass point does not dominate the site but rather interacts with its surroundings and the works of other architects in the complex. (Christian de Portzamparc for the Cité de la musique and the conservatory, and Bernard tschumi with his famous “folies”) Jean has designed the Philharmonie as a hill.
The design encourages users to seek the breathtaking views of the iconic structures on the northeastern side of Paris. The complex is designed to form continuity between the metropolitan city and the neighbouring communities.
The design goes beyond just music, it offers a space for music to grow and live. The structure has a 37-metre high roof. Doubling as a public space, it also offers a panoramic view, merging the city and its suburbs. Cafes like Le Balcon and l’Atelier encourage the public to wander through the spaces around the Great hall.
Exhibition spaces, educational and rehearsal spaces provided, result in various multi-functional spaces with flow among them. Jean designs, in contrast, volume and void, dark and light moulding his work to be extraordinary. His work finds harmony in contrast.
The Great Hall
The concert hall pioneers in 2 aspects. The acoustics and the multifunctionality of the spaces.
As the brief calls for, the layout and the acoustical systems of the hall are unconventional. The hall follows neither the shoe ‘box style’ like the Musikverein in Vienna nor the ‘vineyard’ style at the Berlin Philharmonie. Imbibing the concept of envelopment, the design of the adjustable concert hall required a feat in structural design, stage and acoustics design. Jean Nouvel worked with Sir Harold Marshall of the Marshall Day Acoustics from New Zealand.
The design brief called for great clarity of sound, significant lateral reflections, intimacy in audience experience as well as high reverberations in an inventive layout. The intimacy was achieved by a system of floating balconies. The designed outer chamber produced high reverberations.
The new model intertwines lateral reflections, direct sound and reverberations. The concert hall is thus able to achieve excellent clarity of sound within a warm, enveloping resonance.
The concert hall is also soundproof from the busy surroundings of the ring road of Paris. This is possible due to the “box in box” approach with space between the walls.
The Philharmonie is distinct from its peers in other European concert halls due to its innovation in seating and stage design. During a symphonic setup, the hall can seat 2400 people, whereas, during a contemporary set up, the hall can seat about 3500 people. This versatility has been made possible due to the brilliance in stage design. Jean Nouvel assisted by Metra and Associates worked closely with agency Ducks in stage design.
The hall is made to adapt to various genres of music performance. The tiers behind the stage can accommodate a choir, or collapse for a concert type performance. Standing space can also be made by removing the seats in the parterre for contemporary performances.
Rehearsal And Educational Spaces
The concert hall is accompanied by various spaces. Five rehearsal studios for big and small groups are present to allow the artist to practice the craft. A studio space with a stage identical to the great hall and conference rooms is also present. The complex also has 800 square meters of temporary exhibition space.
The allocated space has high ceilings and easy accessibility from the foyer, great hall, and gallery. These elements add to the temporal nature of the space and allow it to be transformed with small exhibitions, large installations or musical performances. An 1800 square meter of educational space is also present on the ground floor for the pedagogic department.
The Philharmonie is designed as an extension of the public park. Anyone can enjoy the views from the hilltop, come down using the zig-zag steps, and relish the green open spaces of the park. This makes the structure of the people, just as music is. Music may be created by one person but is enjoyed by the world in its unique sense.
- Decouvrir.philharmoniedeparis.fr. 2021. Philharmonie | Philharmonie de Paris. [online] Available at: <https://decouvrir.philharmoniedeparis.fr/en/philharmonie> [Accessed 26 April 2021].
- ArchDaily. 2021. Gallery: Philharmonie de Paris Photographed by Danica O. Kus. [online] Available at: <https://www.archdaily.com/778425/gallery-philharmonie-de-paris-photographed-by-danica-o-kus> [Accessed 26 April 2021].
- Archello. 2021. Philharmonie de Paris | Ateliers Jean Nouvel, Axalta Powder Coatings EMEA, Uginox | Archello. [online] Available at:
- <https://archello.com/project/philharmonie-de-paris-2> [Accessed 26 April 2021].