x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Portable concert hall for Abu Dhabi Festival

The pieces for the portable pavilion, including 200 seats, are already in the country in two shipping containers.

ABU DHABI // In an age of mega concerts and packed amphitheatres, a "touring chamber music hall" designed by the architecture firm behind the Sheikh Zayed Bridge is ready to be assembled again in the emirate to host intimate performances.

Co-commissioned by Abu Dhabi Music and Arts Foundation (Admaf), the transportable JS Bach/Zaha Hadid Architects Chamber Music Hall is to be assembled for next year's Abu Dhabi Festival.

The pieces for the portable pavilion, including 200 seats, are already in the country in two shipping containers, having been set up previously for last July's Manchester International Festival and this summer's Holland Festival.

The idea was to create a performance space that harked back to the days of Bach and classical chamber music, said Melodie Leung, the lead designer of the pavilion,

"It was very important that we bring that chamber music by Bach back into the environment it was meant to be performed in," she said from the London headquarters of Zaha Hadid Architects. "For commercial reasons, these days you have a big concert hall, but we wanted to get that intimate salon-like atmosphere into a contemporary vision."

Marilyne Morin, a spokesman for Admaf, said the portable concert venue would probably be set up for the Abu Dhabi Festival by March. The 2011 festival is to run from March 19 to April 5.

A curvaceous translucent ribbon made from light fabric swirls around the hall, creating layered spaces and enhancing acoustics. The idea, Ms Leung said, was that the larger room would seem to "fade away" to the audience and the performers.

At one point, the ribbon merges with the stage. At its most compressed, it is the size of a handrail. Sound reflectors are also hidden within the fabric of the hall's installation.

"You still feel there's an interior to it when you're inside the ribbon to give people the feeling that they're being cocooned within this really intimate space," Ms Leung said.

The concert hall project was commissioned in partnership by the Manchester International Festival, the Holland Festival and Admaf in 2009.

At the 2009 Manchester festival, Admaf took part in Hakawati, a traditional Arabic storytelling event, with a performance by Alia al Zoughbi in the temporary concert hall.

mkwong@thenational.ae