Project Name: Chapel of Sound
Project Architect: OPEN Architecture
Project Location: Chengde, China
Project Year: 2021
Project Area: 790 sq.m
Project Manufacturers: FLOS, TARGTTI, Lutron, IKE STAR, Ikea, VitrA, Hafele, Reckli, Reggiani
Project Landscape Design: Ning Field Lighting Design
Client: Aranya International Cultural Development Co., Ltd.
Lighting Consultant: Ning Field Lighting Design
Interior Design: OPEN Architecture
Principal In-charge: Li Hu, Huang Wenjing
Design Team: Xiuyuan Chen, Zhuoqun Cai, Ziqiao Tang, Tingting Zhou, Kuanyin Fang, Chunchen Kuo, Zetian Huang, Bihong Lin
Structural Engineer: Arup
Signage Design: OPEN Architecture
The Chapel of Sound Amphitheatre is located in a steep valley two hours away by vehicle from Beijing’s downtown. The structure is a monolithic open-air performance theater with glimpses of the Ming Dynasty’s Great Wall remnants. Chapel of Sound by OPEN Architecture is designed in a way that the structure resembles a mystery boulder that has softly fallen into position.
The design, which includes a semi-outdoor amphitheatre, external stage, observation decks, and a green room, is made completely of concrete enhanced with a mixture of native mineral-rich stones. Chapel of Sound open-air concert hall intended for guests to relax and cherish the sounds of nature. The natural surroundings and essence are profoundly inspirational and restorative.
The building was also built to embody the unusual and highly affecting sensation of music played in the cot of nature. The music hall is also a calm location for reflection and community meetings when there are no performances, with spectacular scenery of the sky and natural atmosphere.
The shape of the 8,500-square-foot auditorium is fully dictated by its role as an acoustic instrument, rather than a venue for witnessing performances. The design of the interior was influenced by the human ear, the most intriguing sound instrument ever made.
The concrete used for building was formed from the stones on-site, which also makes the structure blend in with its environment. The layered external shape was inspired by the stratified rock formations seen in the nearby mountains.
The main founders of OPEN architecture, Li Hu and Huang Wenjing were prompted by a goal to reduce the music hall’s imprint in the region by designing a building that was in conversation with the surrounding natural landscape but nevertheless appeared to be clearly man-made.
The final gigantic rock-like structure consists of an inner and outer layer, with the gap between them acting as a truss, and was created in collaborative efforts with Arup, a global engineering firm. Each striation, made of concrete, extends out from the preceding shell to generate an inverted cone shape.
The structure’s winding stairs lead to a roof platform with stunning scenery of the region and the iconic Great Wall. Bronze embellishments for elements such as railings and doors are employed to provide a soothing contrast against the sturdy concrete in the interior areas.
Externally, the cave-like structure may not appear to be that cozy, yet it has numerous thoughtful elements that culminate in a completed piece that provides a welcoming environment for guests. The hall, although being designed for the best acoustic results for music concerts, may also be utilized for meditation and community events.
The massive aperture in the top of the hall, as well as numerous holes of various forms carved into the walls, provide breathtaking natural views. Furthermore, new melodies of nature are continually filtering in via the openings.
The beauty of the Chapel of Sound Amphitheatre stems from the fact that it characterizes the notion of a song in its design. Even if there isn’t a performance going on, the structure is nevertheless surrounded by natural views and sensations. Rays of sunlight and precipitation come in via the apertures, and water flowing out of the floor channels creates a distinctive sound. The natural melodies generated by birds, insects, and breezes are clearly heard which is not the case in typical structures with doors and windows.
The architects were encouraged by the project’s broad brief to investigate all areas related to performance, specifically how sound behavior may be a driving factor behind the ultimate design of the building; Li and Huang emphasized their desire to demonstrate the shape of sound.
The team was also interested in discovering how sound reverberates in natural environments like caverns. They recognized the issues of producing an outstanding acoustic environment without having to add more sound-absorbent components. Collaborating with acoustic experts, OPEN architects considered the many ways in which people would perceive sounds in the performance hall and created apertures that function as sound-absorbing spaces as well as a link to the outside world.
“We were very aware of the responsibility we had to contribute a thoughtful structure that fits naturally into such a unique landscape. We wanted to create something different, and more importantly, something meaningful. We are now at a time when the question of our relationship with nature as human beings is more acute than ever. Can we be humble enough to hear what nature is murmuring to us? The symphony of nature is what we really wanted people to experience here,” mentioned the team at OPEN Architecture.
As you go towards the Chapel of Sound China, you are drawn in by the sense of mystery and curiosity that surrounds it. This applies to how visitors will engage with the area; the building may be used for a variety of purposes, from personal introspection to large-scale performances.
“We wanted the definition of the space to be not so absolute, thus allowing for possibilities. Solitary or communal, music or sound of nature, gazing into the starry sky or connecting with one’s inner self- it’s open to the interpretation of the users,” said Huang Wenjing, the principal-in-charge.
The Chapel of Sound Amphitheatre uses extremely little energy because it has no mechanical heating or air conditioning systems, and that was something the architects were very cognizant of while creating the structure. Ambient daylight enters the project through the perforations, organically lighting the performance areas. Whenever it rains, rainwater will also flow through the gap, but architects proposed a drainage system that swiftly conducts the water away, inspired by the design of the one in Pantheon.
The rooftop was perhaps the most difficult and time-consuming aspect of the construction phase. Construction crews came in for turns throughout the day and night to lay the concrete for the roofing. They employed hand tools to manicure the faces as each load of concrete was meticulously poured. The architects required the building enclosed before the onset of winter, hence the 24-hour deadline was crucial.
The principal-in-charge of Chapel of Sound Amphitheatre, Li and Huang spent almost a decade studying and practicing in the United States, and as a result, they are very sensitive towards moving away from typical Eastern or Western concepts of architecture, especially when it concerns cultural venues.
Architects recognize that apparent cultural distinctions in the way people experience events and settings are exaggerated, and they try to illustrate via their building that an architectural design has the capacity to link people to one another, to the environment, and to our own history and evolution.
When the ray of light enters the dark cave interiors, dance over the hard surfaces, when the interiors are filled up with light and melodies; when rain plays its own music by entering through the aperture; there’s an unmatched musical and visual show in the structure. Even if there are no performances by humans, nature is there to speak out loud for its beauty and magnificence.
The musical nodes, whether natural or performed by experts, stay forever in the Sound of Chapel Amphitheatre. This design is a sensitive approach raising the bars of architectural design that imbibes within the natural surroundings.
The design is in symphony with nature and becomes a part of it with the material selection and the form of the building. The architect has regarded the natural site context and blended the concept to create a masterpiece that invites you towards itself. Meticulous craftsmanship is built with delicacy within the setting of the raw, enormous room, and warmth gives calm tranquility as guests seek relief in both natural and melodic sounds.
Chapel of Sound Amphitheatre is a space for entertainment, completely enveloped by natural terrain and laid under the blanket of stunning skies. There’s a contrast in the whole structure, while the exterior facade appears bold and harsh, the interiors are planned to be warm and comforting. The texture and dark appearance are balanced by letting in natural light and soothing melodies.
The project is an example of a thoughtful and sensitive approach for generating an architectural design that leaves a positive impact on visitors.