Whereas some buildings can survive on their looks alone, concert halls and opera houses must appeal to the ears as well as the eyes. The degree to which contemporary performance venues succeed on both fronts is the focus of Site and Sound: The Architectural and Acoustics of New Opera Houses and Concert Halls (The Monacelli Press, $50), a thoughtful new book by architectural historian Victoria Newhouse. Though she provides historical context through an overview that goes back to Greek amphitheaters, the author’s primary interest is in the present. She offers firsthand impressions on the acoustics and aesthetics of recent projects from around the world—including spaces designed by Pritzker Prize winners Frank Gehry, Zaha Hadid, and Jean Nouvel—and also previews a few that are yet to come. Here, AD presents some of the highlights.
Completed in 2010, Zaha Hadid’s futuristic Guangzhou Opera House comprises two buildings. The larger, sheathed in black granite, contains the primary theater, shown, while a smaller, clad in complementary white stone, is a multiuse hall. The opera house’s acoustics are enhanced by half-inch scoops in the fiberglass-reinforced gypsum walls; dotting the undulating ceiling are 4,000 twinkling LED lights.