The OPEN architecture reveals an invisible look at the completed “chapel of sound”

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built nature

The OPEN architecture unveils its cavernous concert hall, dubbed the “Chapel of Sound,” a concert hall that overlooks the distant mountains north of Beijing. the volume is nestled in the porcelain valley, and suggests a rocky and organic relief. the structure is constructed entirely of concrete mixed with locally sourced rock aggregate, the shape of the inverted conical structure is designed to optimize acoustics.

the project integrates a semi-outdoor amphitheater, an outdoor stage and viewing platforms. inside, the cave-like space is naturally lit by a large skylight, as well as small and varied openings cut into the walls. these openings frame views of the sky and the distant landscape. see previous designboom coverage here.

designboom spoke with li hu and huang wenjing, founding partners of OPEN architecture, about the development of the “chapel of sound” — see the interview below!

image courtesy of OPEN architecture

the acoustics of a cave

the design team at OPEN Architecture developed its Noise Chapel after investigating resonant cavities found in shells, wooden instruments, and the human ear. thanks to software simulation, the shape of the room has been optimized for sound quality while the openings serve to absorb sound and avoid unwanted reverberations. the layered nature of the structure mimics the sedimentary rock formations of the surrounding mountains.

against the backdrop of the rough and cavernous space, thoughtful details are carefully crafted and warmth provides quiet comfort as visitors take respite in natural, musical sound. even without a scheduled musical performance or event, the hall remains a destination for visitors – a destination to sit and quietly listen to an ever-changing natural symphony of birdsong, wind and rain.

Sound of the OPEN chapel
image © jonathan leijonhufvud

OPEN architecture’s sound chapel

when the sun shines, the cavernous interior of the Chapel of Sound is illuminated from above and transformed with intricate shadows. rainwater creates a meditative performance all its own as it falls through the central opening in the hall, splashing onto the floor before flowing through built-in channels. when ascending the spiral staircase to the top of the hall, visitors emerge onto an exterior plateau roof. there, surrounded by sweeping views across the valley, they are greeted by the sight of the nearby Great Wall for which the area is famous.

Sound of the OPEN chapel

a dialogue with open architecture

designboom (DB): What aspects of your background and education have shaped your design principles and philosophy?

OPEN: hard to say, but the most fascinating aspect of being an architect, at least for us, is the feeling that we continue to absorb, learn and grow. the world is such a complex mess, trying to make sense of it through architecture is challenging, but fun.

Sound of the OPEN chapel
image © jonathan leijonhufvud

DB: can you tell us how the chapel of sound will be experienced?

OPEN: I hope people will experience it in person, of course, leaving behind all the troubles and complexities of life, just be there with yourself and with nature. see what you can hear.

Sound of the OPEN chapel
image © jonathan leijonhufvud

DB: Can you explain the role of natural forms in your design process?

OPEN: nature is the ultimate source of inspiration for us.

DB: How do projects develop within your team, from idea to completion? are drawing and modeling still part of the process?

OPEN: sketching, creating models (both physical and digital), daydreaming, tedious drawing, tearing and retrying, listening and understanding…it’s all part of the process. each project has its own unique journey of discovery.

Sound of the OPEN chapel
image © jonathan leijonhufvud

DB: what do you think is the role of an architect working in today’s society?

OPEN: shape our collective future responsibly and creatively, with imagination.

DB: Apart from architecture, what are you currently interested in and how does this influence your work?

OPEN: trying to make sense of this complex world; trying to overcome the disruption of our human sensitivities caused by an overflow of weightless information. therefore, read, reflect and go out into nature.

Sound of the OPEN chapelimage © zhu runzi

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