Chamber Music Hall / Zaha Hadid Architects

Luke Hayes
Luke Hayes

We just received Zaha Hadid Architects’ latest project for the Manchester International Festival.  ZHA has created a chamber music hall for solo performances of Johann Sebastian Bach’s chamber music masterpieces. The project’s form, a suspended ribbon of translucent lightweight synthetic fabric (150 g/m2) articulated by an internal steel structure, translates the intricate relationships of  Bach’s harmonies into an architectural spatial condition. Festival Director Alex Poots exclaimed, “ consistently come up with challenging and innovative ideas. It has been wonderful to see the realisation of this project and experience such intimate performances from the leading concert musicians within it.”

Further description about ZHA’s Music Hall and more images after the break.

Zaha Hadid Architects
Zaha Hadid Architects

The design of the music hall ”enhances the multiplicity of Bach’s work through a coherent integration of formal and structural logic.  A single continuous ribbon of fabric swirls around itself, creating layered spaces to cocoon the performers and audience with in an intimate fluid space,” explained Hadid.  The ribbon wraps around the stage, the audience and itself, creating different layered conditions by “alternately compressing to the size of a handrail then stretching to enclose the full height of the room.”

Luke Hayes
Luke Hayes

The undulating surface of the fabric shell in a “constant yet changing rhythm” creates a “soft billowing effect”.   When the hall is not in use, programmed lighting and a series of dispersed musical recordings will activate the spaces between the ribbon.

In addition to the strong architectural ideas, the music hall must provide clear acoustics for those viewing the concert. “The challenge of the project was to take a gallery space primarily designed for visual art and help Zaha Hadid Architects in their vision to convert it into a modern extraordinary new performance space for chamber music,” explained Mark Howarth, a partner of Sandy Brown Associates.

Luke Hayes
Luke Hayes

“For optimum conditions for chamber music it is important to ensure that the reverberation time is not too long as this blurs individual notes so music can lose its intricacy. Equally it should not be too short as this provides a lack of response for the performer and causes the music to sound overly dry,” explained Howarth.  If ZHA added too much additional sound absorptive material, the sound would loose a lot of its quality.  Thus, a variety of materials were investigated, such as different fabrics, metals and plastics, to ensure that the architectural elements would not take away from the musical experience.

Tony Hogg Design and Base Structures
Tony Hogg Design and Base Structures

ZHA and worked together to perfect the acoustics using CAD models that were imported into acoustic modelling software that tested the different finishes and shapes of the curving form.  Through this collaboration, ZHA’s curving ribbon creates both a strong architectural statement and a great acoustic environment as the form helps scatter the sound reflections to eliminate flutter echoes and enhance the acoustic experience of the concert.

Images courtesy of Tony Hogg Design and Base Structures, Zaha Hadid Architects, and Luke Hayes. All images are copyright.

For further information on all performances and events the Manchester International Festival please visit

Luke Hayes
Luke Hayes
Luke Hayes
Luke Hayes
Luke Hayes
Luke Hayes
Zaha Hadid Architects
Zaha Hadid Architects
Zaha Hadid Architects
Zaha Hadid Architects
Tony Hogg Design and Base Structures
Tony Hogg Design and Base Structures

CLIENT: Manchester International Festival

PROGRAMME: Chamber Music Hall

ARCHITECTS: Zaha Hadid Architects

DESIGN TEAM (Zaha Hadid Architects): Melodie Leung, Gerhild Orthacker

ACOUSTIC CONSULTANT: Sandy Brown Associates

FABRICATOR: Base Structures


SITE: Manchester Art Gallery, T1 Gallery

SITE AREA: 17m x 25m

Cite: Cilento, Karen. "Chamber Music Hall / Zaha Hadid Architects" 08 Jul 2009. ArchDaily. Accessed 27 May 2015. <>
  • darla

    Black and white contrast is great… other than that, nothing. Absolutely nothing.

  • daan

    wow. its so popular to critics zaha regardless of what she has done.

    apparently its successful acoustically and it appears to provide intimacy in a larger space. how were these objectives not reached?

  • David Basulto [tricky]

    Looks great, specially the acoustics focus. It´s interesting to see how textiles work under this conditions.

  • mkk

    I’m over Zaha and her meaningless forms, but this is simple and slick. If the acoustics work then bravo….

  • gabs

    otro exito de hadid, como no se equivoca!!! hermoso


    zaha is still developing. Great work

  • Blark

    Simple, beautiful and by all accounts practical…. Where is Zaha and what have you done with her?!?

  • Richie

    I like this.. The form reminds me of something like a conch shell, and the ribbon concept is simple and elegant.

  • hungmc83

    Zaha is the best!

  • acotadecalle

    i usually dont like zaha’s projects…too much pretentious and artificious.

    but i think than in this case has solved the requests more than properly with only one system of a winding bondage.

    also is a really beautiful object.


    • Cesar Castro

      Perhaps is because her shapes acquire the elegance their mega-structures lose with the change of scale. Absolutely beautiful. Hope the acoustic works as good as the images.

  • Spiral Architect

    i don’t like zaha too much but the design looks really nice. but it’s ok only if acustics work..

  • Lasse

    I don’t think this at all captures Bach’s music. Okay, maybe one instrument is reasonably well represented, but a symphony is all the instruments.

    HOWEVER it is nice to see Zaha and co shape for optimal preformance. And even though it does’nt capture Bach and is’nt perfectly shaped (some of the shapes are just too small) it definetely has qualities.

    So, Zaha stop doing silly shoes for Lacoste and take stuff like this to yet another level…

    • peter

      I’m sorry who are you? you must be really great to be able to provide such in depth analysis……I am truely in …..!!!


    • d

      who the heck are you? not normal

      lol im positive you couldn’t come up with a fraction of her creativity if ur life depended on it.

      zaha is truly an amazing, hugely talented woman. her critics are shallow and ignorant

  • stan

    I like it a lot. Its music frozen in space

  • Durban

    Who would have guessed! Zaha only gets one bad comment so far! I was getting ready to read some really rude and predjudiced comments about the architect everyone loves to hate, but i’ve been dissapointed. Clearly i need to go look at gehry or koolhaas if i want to see cutting comments from grumpy know-it-alls. Personally i love this design.

  • fukun

    wow, so cool, I like it.

  • Darajan

    I also don’t think it captures Bach, but music could be intrpreted in whatever ways. I like the structure, sexy, esp. with the chairs. But personally, I don’t think that chair is comfotable for concert. I also don’t understand why they build an open structure in an closed space. The pressure of the cold ceiling would conflict the spirit of fugue into the sky.

  • Juan Gomez-Velez

    Usually architecture is enhanced in its images, that is to say it tends to look better in them than it really is. In this particular case, I feel its more like sculpture, no image will do it justice. Its light ( as in weight) its light ( as related to darkness) fleeting ( all interiors are ephemeral)yet memorable. I believe one will not easily forget the experience of being there.

  • Pingback: Espectacular diseño para una sala de conciertos acústicamente adecuado para escuchar música de cámara de Bach

  • Pingback: Espectacular diseño para una sala de conciertos acústicamente adecuado para escuchar música de cámara de Bach

  • jw

    i read an article on this in the nytimes this morning.

    i love the continuity and fluidity of the form… a strong structural contrast to the existing space. i may not be the biggest fan of all her work, but this is beautiful.

  • maunish kafiah

    amazing use of curves…dat describes her aftr al…u can actually feel da music in it….

  • Jim

    Solo Bach … on a piano?
    Why not a harpsichord?