DRDH Architects

Concert Hall at the Muziekcentrum de Bijloke . Ghent

DRDH Architects . Concert Hall at the Muziekcentrum de Bijloke . Ghent afasia Karin Borghouts(2)

DRDH Architects . photos: © Karin Borghouts

Completion of the Concert Hall at the Muziekcentrum de Bijloke, Ghent, designed by DRDH following a competition win in 2017. The project was developed in collaboration with Julian Harrap Architects, Arup Venue and Acoustics, ABT and RCR.

The masterplan builds upon the existing collection of public rooms, each with their own distinct character and atmosphere. It is a project that can be developed incrementally, over time and by many hands. Beyond the concert hall itself, the first phase has been the creation of a new room, within a former entrance space, to house a café bar and jazz venue. Its interior has been assembled by a collaboration of young Flemish designers and makers Studio Helder and Ghent collective Onbetaalbaar, who have created furniture from recycled elements of the previous concert hall.

The transformation of the concert hall, into an acoustic room of international standard, able to host performances and performers of the highest calibre, has been the focus for DRDH and their team. Housed within a remarkable13th Century gothic hall, the former infirmary of the historic Bijloke Abbey hospital, the 830 seat venue takes advantage of the particular and special qualities of the space as found, but augments them with characteristic elements of classical concert spaces, of similar form and scale, creating an evocative space within which to hear both classical and contemporary music.

Despite its impressive scale and important historical elements, the existing hall does not have the natural attributes of a concert hall and the previous interior employed electro- acoustic enhancement to create even an acceptable acoustic environment. The new design obviates the need for this by increasing the natural reverberance of the space and improving the experience of both audience and performers, through a number of incremental measures.

The most dramatic, in terms of construction, involved lowering the entire floor of the hall by 1.2m. Beyond increasing the volume of the room by around 13%, this improves direct reflection from the side walls and makes both stage and auditorium fully accessible, with all the historic entrance doors being reinstated. The elongated proportions of the existing space are countered by moving the stage into the centre of the room by 5m, while also pulling the rear seats forward to create circulation behind. This increases the feeling of intimacy between audience and performers, particularly for those in the rear seats, and creates space for choir seating behind the orchestra, above a new back stage area.

The existing walls of the medieval building have splayed out over time, under the weight of the heavy timber roof structure, causing sound to bounce upwards and get lost in it. This effect is countered by a new timber wall that enfolds both the auditorium and the stage within a continuous, encircling ribbon. Its plan geometry echoes that of the vaulted roof while its intricate acoustic surface, of fumed oak, complements and visually balances it.
The new element is placed, vessel-like, within the larger body of the hall and is conceived as a finely made acoustic timber instrument that tunes the existing volume to provide both an enveloping and immersive sound and an appropriately intimate atmosphere, bringing a renewed sense of purpose to this significant historic setting.

Client: Muziekcentrum de Bijloke, Ghent, Belgium Architect : DRDH Architects
Project team DRDH: David Howarth, Daniel Rosbottom, Jef Driesen, David Eagleton Heritage Architect : Julian Harrap Architects
Structural engineer : ABT Belgium Theatre and Acoustics : Arup M&E consultant : RCR
Quantity surveyor : ABT Belgium CDM adviser: Vekmo NV
Main contractor : Denys

Area: Masterplan 2,700m2 , Concert Hall and Chapel 1,150m2

Design Period: October 2017- September 2019
ImageImageImageConstruction 5th August 2019 3rd September 2020 ( 336 days ) Form of contract and/ or procurement : Traditional
Funding : FoCI (Flemish Fund for Cultural Infrastructure)

Photography: Karin Borghouts