JS Bach / Chamber Music Hall
Zaha Hadid Architects

November 30, 2009 /

Manchester, United Kingdom

Photo © Joel Chester Fildes courtesy Zaha Hadid Architects
The JS Bach Chamber Music Hall was first installed in the Manchester Art Gallery during the Summer 2009 Festival. The same pavilion will be at the Holland Festival in 2010.

A voluminous ribbon swirls within the room, carving out a spatial and visual response to the intricate relationships of Bach's harmonies. As the ribbon careens above the performer, cascades into the ground and wraps around the audience, the original room as a box is sculpted into fluid spaces swelling, merging, and slipping through one another.

Image courtesy Zaha Hadid Architects © Luke Hayes
Image courtesy Zaha Hadid Architects © Luke Hayes

The design enhances the multiplicity of Bach's work through a coherent integration of formal and structural logic.

/Zaha Hadid

The process of realizing the design involved architectural considerations of scale, structure and acoustics to develop a dynamic formal dialogue inseparable from its intended purpose as an intimate chamber music hall.

A layering of spaces and functions is achieved through the ribbon wrapping around itself, alternately compressing to the size of a handrail then stretching to enclose the full height of the room. Circulatory and visual connections are
continually discovered as one passes through the multiple layers of space delineated by the ribbon.

Image courtesy Zaha Hadid Architects © Luke Hayes
Image courtesy Zaha Hadid Architects © Luke Hayes
The ribbon itself consists of a translucent fabric membrane articulated by an internal steel structure suspended from the ceiling. The surface of the fabric shell undulates in a constant but changing rhythm as it is stretched over the internal structure. It varies between the highly tensioned skin on the exterior of the ribbon and the soft billowing effect of the same fabric on the interior of the ribbon.

Clear acrylic acoustic panels are suspended above the stage to reflect and disperse the sound, while remaining visually imperceptible within the fabric membrane. Programmed lighting and a series of dispersed musical recordings activate the spaces between the ribbon outside of performance times. The installation is designed to be transportable and re-installed in other similar venues.

Pivotal to its function is the performance of the ribbon. It has been designed to simultaneously enhance the acoustic experience of the concert while spatially defining a stage, an intimate enclosure, and passageways. It exists at a scale in which it is perceived as both an object floating in a room as well as a temporal architecture that invites one to enter, inhabit and explore.

Image courtesy Tony Hogg Design and Base Structures
3D Model

Rendering courtesy Zaha Hadid Architects

Facts about JS Bach / Chamber Music Hall

Site Area:

425 m2

Design Team:
Melodie Leung, Gerhild Orthacker

Acoustic Consultant:

Sandy Brown Associates


Mark Howarth


Base Structures

Tensile structure engineer:

Tony Hogg Design Ltd


Manchester International Festival

Last updated: December 19, 2013

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