Photographer: Philippe Ruault
The past thirty years have seen frantic attempts by architects to escape the domination of the “shoe-box” concert hall. Rather than struggle with the inescapable acoustic superiority of this traditional shape, the Casa da Musica attempts to reinvigorate the traditional concert hall in another way: by redefining the relationship between the hallowed interior and the general public outside. The Casa da Musica, the new home of the National Orchestra of Porto, stands on a new public square in the historic Rotunda da Boavista. It has a distinctive faceted form, made of white concrete, which remains solid and believable in an age of too many icons. Inside, the elevated 1,300-seat (shoe box-shaped) Grand Auditorium has corrugated glass facades at either end that open the hall to the city, and offer Porto itself as a dramatic backdrop for performances. Casa da Musica reveals its contents without being didactic; at the same time, it casts the city in a new light.
Locating the Casa da Musica was key in the development of OMA’s thinking: we chose not to build the new concert hall in the ring of old buildings defining the Rotunda but to create a solitary building standing on a travertine-paved plateau in front of the Rotunda’s park, neighbouring a working class area. With this concept, issues of symbolism, visibility, and access were resolved in one gesture.
As well as the Grand Auditorium, conceived as a simple mass hollowed out end-to-end from the solid form of the building, the Casa da Musica also contains a smaller, more flexible performance space with no fixed seating, ten rehearsal rooms, recording studios, an educational area, a restaurant, terrace, bars, a VIP room, administration areas, and an underground car park for 600 vehicles.
Innovative use of materials and colour throughout was another imperative: as well as the unique curtain-like glass walls at either end of the Grand Auditorium, the walls are clad in plywood with enlarged wood patterns embossed in gold, giving a dramatic jolt in perspective; the VIP area has hand-painted tiles picturing a traditional pastoral scene, while the roof terrace is patterned with geometric black and white tiles; floors in public areas are sometimes paved in aluminium.
There is deliberately no large central foyer; instead a continuous public route connects the spaces around the Grand Auditorium by means of stairs, platforms and escalators: the building becomes an architectural adventure.
Competition 1999, 1st Prize.
OMA – Office for Metropolitan Architecture:
Partners-in-Charge: Rem Koolhaas and Ellen van Loon
Project Architects: Adrianne Fisher, Michelle Howard
Competition: Rem Koolhaas, Fernando Romero Havaux, Isabel Silva, Barbara Wolff, Uwe Herlijn
Team: Isabel Silva, Uwe Herlijn, Nuno Rosado, Robert Choeff, Barbara Wolff, Stephan Griek, Govert Gerritsen, Saskia Simon, Thomas Duda, Christian von der Muelde, Rita Amado, Philip Koenen, Peter Müller, Krystian Keck, Eduarda Lima, Christoff Scholl, Alex de Jong, Alois Zierl, Olaf Hitz, Jorge Toscano, Duarte Santos, Nelson Carvalho, Stefanie Wandinger, Catarina Canas, Shadi Rahbaran, Chris van Duijn, Maria Baptista, André Cardoso, Paulo Costa, Ana Jacinto, Fabienne Louyot, Nicolas Firket, Christina Beaumont, Anna Little
Local Architect: ANC Architects, Jorge Carvalho, Teresa Novais
Ove Arup & Partners – Afassociados:
Coordination: Cecil Balmond, Rory McGowan (Arup) – Rui Furtado, Marco Carvalho (Afa)
Structure: Arup London / AFA Lda, Cecil Balmond, Rory McGowan, Asim Gaba, Toby Maclean, Andrew Minson, Rui Furtado, Rui Oliveira, Pedro Moás, Sérgio Vale, Sara Caetano, Jorge Carneiro, Filipe Ferreira, Diogo Vasconcelos
Services: Arup London / AFA Lda/RGA, Tim Thornton, Stefan Waldhauser, Dane Green, Dorothee Richter, António José Rodrigues Gomes, Joaquim Viseu, Luís Graça, Paulo Silva, Pedro Albuquerque, Isabel Sarmento, Estevão Santana.
Fire Engineering: Arup fire, George Faller
Code Consultancy: OHM/Gerisco
Acoustics: TNO Eindhoven and Dorsser Blesgraaf, Renz van Luxemburg, Theo Raijmakers
Interiors, Curtains: Inside Outside, Petra Blaisse, Peter Niessen, Marieke van den Heuvel, Mathias Lehner
Scenography: dUCKS scéno, Michel Cova, Stephan Abromeit, Aldo de Sousa
Facade: Robert Jan van Santen; ARUP facades
Curved Glass Facade: ABT Arnhem (NL), Rob Nijsse
Auditorium Chairs: Maarten van Severen
Loose Furniture Foyers: Daciano da Costa, António Sena da Silva, Leonor Álvares de Oliveira, Fernando Távora