The National Forum of Music in Wrocław
A violin's soundbox and the keys of a grand piano were the musical inspirations behind the National Forum of Music's design. It is a modern music centre with concert halls in Wrocław, and officially opened in September 2015.
On September 4th 2015, the National Forum of Music’s musical ensembles: NFM Symphony Orchestra, NFM Leopoldinum Chamber Orchestra, NFM Choir and the Wrocław Baroque Orchestra inaugurated NFM’s (one of the most modern concert hall centres in Europe) activities with a concert of pieces by Polish composers. The building stands near Freedom Square in Wrocław and will become the home of the International Wratislavia Cantans Festival and the Witold Lutosławski Philharmonic. The main office of the two well-respected institutions which merged in 2014 is meant to be open and inclusive, and to become (as the name suggests) a true forum and a space for various concerts, festivals, cultural gatherings and events.
The NFM building was designed by Kuryłowicz & Associates Architecture Studio, selected through an international architectural contest in 2005. The author of the project, the late Stefan Kuryłowicz, held a doctorate in the field of concert hall architecture. Along with his colleagues, he designed the form of the grand edifice with six floors and three underground levels. The National Forum of Music is one of Europe's biggest concert hall centres, including a recording studio, conference and office space, a library, rehearsal rooms, dressing rooms, cloak rooms, cafés, and bookstores for music lovers.
The architects from Kuryłowicz & Associates gave the building a rather unobtrusive form. The reasoning behind this decision lies in its close proximity to the historical neighbourhood of the Old Town and architectural context of the Wrocław city centre's diverse styles. The building's elevation, marked with thin incisions with the horizontal lines of glass windows, is covered with a special material called Prodema which consists of many layers of veneer glued together with resin. The concert hall’s colour and texture resembles that of the soundbox of a musical instrument. The warm brown of the elevation of the NMF fits in well with the walls of the historical architecture of Wrocław.
The interior of the building is no less detailed. The foyer is particularly impressive, covered with black and white Corian – a solid, resistant acrylic material, with a distinctively smooth surface. The bold contrast of the black and white surfaces of the foyer (diagonal lines of the white balconies and stairs compared to the black walls in the background) will no doubt bring about the impression of piano keys for many music lovers.
We’re not afraid of the black and white foyer, because it accentuates the building's nature. When we dress for special occasions, we also wear black and white. We wanted to create something sublime, something that would get across to everyone, yet wouldn’t have any ornamentation as it wouldn’t fit the neo-modernist style the building was created in.
– said Ewa Kuryłowicz, one of the authors of the project.
The elevation from the side of the old moat was given additional detailing made of golden metal sheets.
Although the shape and interior of the building draw a lot of attention, the National Forum of Music is essentially 4 concert halls that can fit over 2,500 people (the biggest hall has 1,800 seats, another has 400 and two have 200). The acoustics of these spaces played a key role in the design process.
The concert hall is like an instrument that wants to make a perfect sound. In order for that to happen, everything needs to be taken into consideration. The seating arrangement, the distance between the seats, the fabric they’re made of, the aesthetic finishings of the furniture's edges. Starting with a large-scale design, you slowly go down to the details.
– Ewa Kuryłowicz explained.
While assessing the acoustics of NFM, the architects collaborated with specialists from the American company Artec Consultants, who had previously created concert halls in Montreal, Singapore, Paris, Saint Petersburg and Toronto and worked with such architects as Jean Nouvel, Robert Venturi, I.M. Pei or Moshe Safdie. The concert halls in the NFM are not only designed according to the interior but are also isolated from exterior sounds and vibrations. They are ‘boxes within a box’: each concert hall is a separate, independent construct in terms of the building’s design, isolated even from the floor. Even the ventilation pipes and cable installations were designed in such a way as to not allow any sound, noise or vibration to pass into or out of the concert hall.
When the NFM opens it will be the biggest institution in Poland dedicated exclusively to music. It will serve a much greater purpose than merely ensuring a comfortable space for listening to music for people living in Wrocław and Lower Silesia. It will be a national, macro-regional facility.
– Małgorzata Omilanowska, the Minister of Culture and Natural Heritage points out.
It seems she is right, as two days after the official opening, the NFM's concert halls will be home to the 50th International Wratislavia Cantans Festival, which attracts music lovers from all over the world.
Author: Anna Cymer, August 2015, Translatd by: Zuzanna Wiśniewska, September 2015Culture.pl