Jack Diamond on the making of a world-class concert hall
From the time he won the competition to design the new concert hall for the OSM, architect Jack Diamond knew exactly what the building needed to be. A good concert hall for an esteemed company that has long endured performing in a place with less than ideal acoustics, a good urban building that is highly legible and has good public access, and an architectural landmark.
“Located on the Place des Arts, the pre-eminent central square of cultural activity in the Quartier des Spectacles in downtown Montreal where it will join four other cultural buildings, the prevailing attitude in the 1970s when these buildings were built was to put them on podiums, said Diamond, “as this was consistent with the notion of “culture on a pedestal”. But “times have changed”, said Diamond, and in designing this building, Diamond chose instead to engage the concert hall with the city and to make it more accessible. As a result, “the building has the dual characteristic of being both on a podium and on the Place des Arts (the street)” where it enjoys good public visibility and excellent access to public transportation.
Beyond these characteristics, Diamond made a grand urban gesture in siting the building at the terminus of the cultural complex where it closes off the street (much in the same way that Garnier’s Paris Opera House and the Arch de Triumph do) making it ever more prominent within the complex and the larger cityscape. Building on this prime location, Diamond made the concert hall highly transparent with floor to ceiling glass, thus creating a place where one can see and be seen while also imparting a sense of dynamism and excitement to the building. But first and foremost the OSM was designed to be a world class concert hall with state of the art acoustics provided by Artec. While the emphasis is to be big on sound, the hall itself is designed to have an intimate feel, with the space from the stage to the last row of seats being just 75 feet.
In terms of the design of concert hall itself, which seats 1,900, “its DNA is that of a typical shoebox concert hall with a contemporary take”, said Diamond. “The way it differs from the others is that we get the high, middle and low ranges by shaping the walls in series of scallops…in the middle by inserts that run horizontally… and in the high frequency by the use of horizontal wood panels, which vary in texture from a sandpaper like finish to very smooth.
Diamond is hoping the concert hall will rise to the level of the really great halls, which “you can count on two hands”, he said. “The 19th century standard bearer is Munich and the 20th century is Kleinburg”. The building is faced with a honey colour Quebec beech that glows a warm gold. The $259m (CAN) building is slated to open on September 7, 2011.