Inflatable concert hall brings music to Japan

A mobile concert hall has brought music and hope to people suffering from the aftermath of the earthquake that struck Japan in 2011.

Designed by famed sculptor Anish Kapoor and Japanese architect Arata Isozaki, the remarkable inflatable venue was commissioned by the Lucerne Festival to bring performances to the Matsushima region, which was devastated by the disaster.

The Lucerne Festival Ark Nova project ran from 27 September to 14 October, staging a series of performances and workshops inside the unique structure.

The focus of the season was on education; Japanese composer and musician Ryuichi Sakamoto established a youth orchestra comprised of players from the local region.

A number of workshops were held, including one led by the conductor Gustavo Dudamel. An ensemble of players from the Lucerne Festival Orchestra also performed.

Lucerne Festival executive and artistic director, Michael Haefliger, told IAM that audience feedback was very positive. ‘Ark Nova succeeded in being a space with a very special atmosphere,’ he said. ‘There was a unique interaction between the audience and performers.’

Haefliger added: ‘The way the inflatable structure reacted to nature and weather, the interaction between inside and out-side, was amazing. It’s a really beautiful concert hall and a work of art.’

The 500-seat venue has an inflatable shell made of an elastic material that allows it to be dismantled, transported and reassembled. The cedar wood used to construct the hall’s acoustic reflectors came from trees in Matsushima.

Haefliger said Ark Nova has been in the works for two years. The project was sponsored by UBS, Nestlé and Takeda Pharmaceutical Company.