Herault Arnod Architectes reach crescendo with 'urban musical instrument' in Oignies
A curious new composition has been taking shape in Oignies over the past two years, courtesy of Herault Arnod Architectes. Standing at the edge of a former coal mine - the last remaining mine in the region - The Metaphone is an interactive architectural gesture that works simultaneously as a venue for artistic performances as an instrument in its own right.
A black box of reinforced concrete is sheathed in a steel structure of mosaic tiles, created using a melange of materials such as frosted glass, steel and wood. This skin extends past the boundary of the core building to form a sheltered porch where musicians can play, their harmonies projected outwards by the building’s carefully-crafted shape.
Sandwiched between the dark-hued concrete and mosaic skin are technical walkways for installing and maintaining sound and lighting equipment, while on the roof the architects have integrated ‘instrumental elements…whose acoustic properties have been calculated to produce musical sound’ alongside photovoltaic panels.
Herault Arnod Architectes details: “There are two principles of sound production: mechanical or electroacoustical, with vibrating bowls mounted on the plates to form loudspeaker membranes (this technique is commonly used in the car industy). These systems have been developed and tested by making a prototype of the musical façade, composed of 8 modules measuring 1.2m, half fitted with an acoustic instrument, the other half with vibrating plates.”
The panels in the outer shell can be vibrated using a series of cables connected to a control cabin, as can an orchestra of twenty instruments arranged across the porch. Plans are to invite musicians from around the world to remotely operate this unusual instrument and display their work through a new medium.
As such, The Metaphone has the ability to signal sunrise or sunset, an interval or the beginning of a performance, by projecting a ‘discreet peripheral sound space’, quiet enough so as not to disturb those in neighbouring buildings. Internally, the building provides a generous concert hall with bright red accents which is flexible enough to allow for audiences between 500 and 1,000 due to its modular design.