From an opera house to a university creative centre, an audiophile’s nirvana to an 18th-century theatre, and even a cathedral, renowned theatre planners and acousticians Sound Space Vision (SSV) unveils its finished projects and reveals future plans for a variety of spaces in around the world.
SSV’s newly completed projects include one of several high-profile buildings for Hong Kong’s extensive West Kowloon Cultural District (WKCD), the Xiqu Centre.
As the first finished building in the new West Kowloon Cultural District, the Xiqu Centre serves as the gateway to the district and is, fittingly, dedicated to the performance of Chinese Opera (Xiqu) and the centre for preservation and development of the variety of Chinese Opera art forms. SSV was responsible for the acoustics and audio systems in all of the Centre’s spaces, including both natural and amplified performances in the 1073-seat Grand Theatre, and the 150-200-seat Tea House space for smaller-scale Xiqu performances; a well-equipped Seminar Hall, large and small rehearsal facilities; a recording/broadcast suite; and all of the retail/food and beverage areas inside the Centre’s public ground-level Atrium.
In planning the acoustics/audio design for the Xiqu Centre, SSV has taken into account the heritage and expectations of Hong Kong audiences and practitioners, along with those of visiting artists from mainland China, and international patrons and artists. SSV was well-prepared for this particular form of opera house having spent many years visiting Hong Kong arts groups, and building on its enthusiasm of Asian arts while working on the acoustics for Singapore’s famed Esplanade. The Xiqu Centre’s grand opening was on January 20, 2019.
From the 21st century to the 18th century, SSV is also known for the care and attention given to heritage design and buildings. Its extensive experience with EU-wide tendering processes for theatre refurbishments was instrumental in it acquiring the theatre planning position for Teatru Manoel, Valetta’s crown jewel. As Europe’s oldest working theatre, the Manoel has been renovated and refurbished many times over its almost 300-year history, with SSV providing expert theatre planning consultation for its most recent adjustments to coincide with Valetta’s European City of Culture events and its famed International Baroque Festival.
SSV was asked to improve and enhance the stalls-level sightlines, and collaborate with the architects to create a new stalls form and configuration. SSV designed very bespoke seats, capturing the 18th century appearance of the curved-back chairs whilst having contemporary ergonomic comfort and legroom. Great attention was paid to the material and colours of the seating to integrate with the theatre’s classical interior. The floor was re-raked for better visibility to the historic stage, and new specialised seats were designed to allow for both maximum flexibility as well as design coordination. Teatru Manoel now has renewed life, comfort and accessibility, with a harmonious seating plan which offers clean sightlines and a more intimate theatrical experience for both audience and performer, and a design to match the style and décor of this 18th century gem. In referring to the refurbishments, Artistic Director, Kenneth Zammit Tabona extolled, “Prosit prosit prosit to all involved who were involved in making this dream a reality!”
SSV believes that all gathering spaces benefit from a holistic approach to planning and acoustics. Spiritland took advantage of SSV’s methodology to enhance their patrons’ experiences.
SSV was brought on board by Spiritland to assist with the refurbishment and fit-out of its elegant new restaurant located within the Royal Festival Hall in London’s Southbank Centre. Described as a “dining room of sonic architecture,” Spiritland Royal Festival Hall tasked SSV with specifying and recommending finishes, materials, enhancements and corrections sympathetic with the company’s ethos and design. These included sound absorbing curtains and an array of ceiling-hung baffles, sound absorbing spray applied across the restaurant’s ceiling, perforated timber panelling, and ceiling tiles and wall panels incorporated in the kitchen. “We’ve endeavoured to create a space that combines a sense of intimacy with its own unique acoustic signature,” says Spiritland creative director Patrick Clayton-Malone. “We worked extensively with acoustic consultants Sound Space Vision to ‘tune’ the room to allow both deep listening and conversation.”
Looking forward, one of SSV’s latest projects is a new Creative Centre – including a three-storey teaching block and 250-seat auditorium, linked by an atrium – at York St John University. The development’s aim is to help the university’s ambitious growth in art and design, computer science, performance and media production. SSV will consult on the planning for the auditorium and teaching spaces and serve as the acoustics consultant for the entire block to ensure maximum functionality, sustainability, and effectiveness of learning and performing. Rob Hickey, executive director of growth and infrastructure for YSJ says, “This will be more than just a university facility, it will house events, exhibitions, film, musical and theatrical performances and also be a hub for small business growth in the culture and creative industries.” The new 4,000 square-metre centre is due to be completed in spring 2021, subject to planning approval.
Also in 2019, SSV is proud to assist Adjaye Associates as theatre planning and acoustics consultant for Sir David’s monumental National Cathedral of Ghana in Accra. Situated within 14 acres of landscaped gardens the cathedral will serve all the Christian denominations and major public functions. SSV is pleased to be working with Sir David on this prestigious project after its 2007 collaboration on London’s Bernie Grant Centre, and will provide guidance and consultation on the planning, design and acoustics for the Cathedral’s interior spaces, including the immense 5000-seat, two-level auditorium. More details on SSV’s participation on The National Cathedral of Ghana will be forthcoming in 2019.
In 2018, SSV completed four major new UK venues: Storey’s Field Centre, the Stirling Award-shortlisted community centre in Cambridge; the Benjamin West Lecture Theatre as part of the Royal Academy of Arts 250th anniversary transformation; the revitalised Garden Quad Auditorium for St. John’s College at Oxford University; and the UK’s newest opera house for Nevill Holt Opera in Leicestershire.
Following its 2018 successes, Sound Space Vision is proud to have these new projects that further enhance the practice’s already sterling reputation.
Xiqu Centre, West Kowloon Cultural District, Hong Kong
SSV: Acoustics and Audio Systems
Architects: Revery Architecture, Ronald Lu & Partners
Opened January 2019
Teatru Manoel, Valetta, Malta
SSV: Theatre Planning
Architect: Architecture Projects (Malta)
Completed for 2018 Valetta European City of Culture events
Spiritland Royal Festival Hall, London
SSV: Acoustic Consultant
Architect: HOK Architects
Opened December 2018
Creative Centre, York St John University
SSV: Theatre Planning & Acoustics
Architect: Tate Harmer
Due to be completed in spring 2021, subject to planning approval
National Cathedral of Ghana, Accra
SSV: Theatre Planning & Acoustics
Architect: Adjaye Associates
The National Cathedral of Ghana design was announced in March 2018