The Bucheon Arts Center is a multi-venue arts centre and home to the Bucheon Philharmonic Orchestra (BPO). It features a 1,450-seat concert hall, a 300-seat black-box theatre and a large orchestral rehearsal room, unique in South Korea. As the performing arts designer for the centre, Arup’s goal was to design a hall that supports a big orchestral sound while creating a connection between the orchestra and audience.

Arup’s design is a collaboration with Seong Kyu Hong who led the architectural design on behalf of Haenglim and DMP. We designed a performance environment that would respond to a wide-ranging repertoire, from Baroque and classical, to jazz and world music, with six overhead canopies to optimise acoustics, a motorised cloth system that can cover part, or all, of the wall surfaces and an array of height-adjustable sound reflectors.

A unique identity through sound

The Bucheon Arts Center captures and reflects the cultural and societal characteristics that inform how the people of Bucheon, and the musicians, wish to communicate through sound, physically and visually. By doing this the centre provides a unique sense of place that flavours the performance spaces and imbues it with a critical authenticity that artists and audiences will recognise. 

The vision for the Bucheon Arts Center was based on both the artistic focus of the BPO, and on references to Korean culture, language, and social character. Our goal was to design a hall that supports the big orchestral sound that the BPO is renowned for, with a textured reverberance and a rich and beautiful tone, and a sense of ‘order’ in the sound. Creating a connection between the orchestra and audience while respecting the importance of the perception of boundaries without the feeling of a constrained ‘indoor’ environment was crucial.

Consideration was given to providing musicians with an environment that allows the broadest range of expression and control, and that ensure a close interaction between the audience and the artist. 

Adjustable acoustics

Concert halls need to work equally well for the wide range of repertoire of the modern symphony orchestra. This ranges from works of Baroque and Classical era, through to the large works of the Romantic and contemporary composers of today, to recitals, jazz and world music, as well as amplified speech events and semi-staged opera performances.

For the Bucheon Arts Center, we designed a performance environment that aims to respond to this entire range of repertoire. It is equipped with six spacious overhead canopies specifically designed to optimise acoustics, with adjustable heights to suit any requirements. There is a motorised cloth system that can be deployed to cover part, or all, of the wall surfaces. In addition, an array of smaller, height-adjustable sound reflectors provides both acoustic support to the musicians, and order to the sound that reaches the audience.

Creating a silent environment

Silence is an essential ingredient for great concert hall acoustics. The new concert hall of the Bucheon Arts Center has been designed as a very quiet environment as a foundation for a wonderful environment for music making and listening. A silent environment (where the enjoyment of the music is not distracted by noise) allows the musicians the widest possible range of expression and dynamics, enabling them to produce their sound naturally without forcing and fighting the room, potentially having a positive impact on their health and longevity of their careers.