In the traditional sense, built environments offer shelter and act as transmitters of culture. Thanks to new technologies and materials, buildings are now becoming interactive spaces, capable of adapting to users' needs or whims quicker than ever. Playing with the idea of creating a building that doubles as a very large musical instrument, Herault Arnod Architectes of France constructed the Metaphone, which they envision as "a building to be looked at and listened to," thanks to special acoustical materials which form the building's skin.
Seen over at World Architecture News, the Metaphone is a solar-powered concert hall in Oignies, France that is built over the region's last remaining coal mine. It's a poetic symbol of transformation that allows it to be used as a conventional concert venue, while also allowing musicians to use the building's special form as an acoustic amplifier if they play an orchestra of instruments arranged on the structure's front deck.
Most intriguingly, the building is outfitted with "integrated instrumental elements" that can produce sound, with a panelled cladding of various acoustical values which can be vibrated, transmitting frequencies that are controlled from a central cabin. Thus, musicians can literally 'play' the whole building as a kind of "urban musical instrument," yet is also designed to acoustically discreet.
With its modular design seating anywhere from 500 to 1,000 people, the designers explain some of the project's sound-making features on its skin:
There are two principles of sound production: mechanical or electroacoustical, with vibrating bowls mounted on the plates to form loudspeaker membranes (this technique is commonly used in the car industy). These systems have been developed and tested by making a prototype of the musical façade, composed of 8 modules measuring 1.2m, half fitted with an acoustic instrument, the other half with vibrating plates.
The project goes above and beyond mere shelter, presenting a innovative way to architecturally engage the ephemeral act of music-making, in addition to integrating its presence (heard and seen) on the urban level. Check out more images at Herault Arnod Architectes.