Festival Pavilion of the Bavarian State Opera in Munich
Text: Heide Wessely
Architects: Coop Himmelb(l)au, Vienna
It has been some 130 years since the Bavarian State Opera inaugurated its last performance space. It is no surprise, then, that the new pavilion erected for the 2010 Opera Festival was destined to be spectacular.
The expressive aluminium shell conceals within it a black box designed to accommodate 300 people; approaching it across an expanse of red granular rubber matting evokes a walk down the red carpet. During the festival, the pavilion featured a variety of events ranging from yoga classes to disco evenings and experimental musical theatre.
The programme reached out to young people and was meant to get them interested in the institution of opera, the embodiment of which is the classicistic main building plainly visible next door. In this way both the event programming and the architecture formed a bridge linking the traditional with the contemporary.
The architects were commissioned to design a mobile building that could be erected at other locations as well; inquiries from London and Paris have already come in.
One difficulty lay in dovetailing the acoustic requirements of a concert hall with a lightweight, easily disassembled structure, as the materials of choice for good acoustics are generally heavy. This challenge was met through the use of canted inner walls, alternately covered with sound-absorbing and sound-reflecting sheet metal.
However, exterior noise needed to be managed as well. The spikes pointing in multiple directions on the western facade perform that duty by virtue of their arrangement and their cladding, which consists of absorbing perforated plate on the lower and reflecting aluminium sheet on the upper surfaces.
The arrangement of the spikes derives from the soundscaping methods developed by Le Corbusier and Iannis Xenaxis. For this pavilion, tone sequences from Purple Haze by Jimi Hendrix and Don Giovanni by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart were transcribed and translated into a computer-based three-dimensional model.