Chapel of Sound, the acoustics of nature

OPEN Architecture creates a stunning outdoor concert hall nestled in the mountains north of Beijing.

This article was originally published on Domus 1062, November 2021.

The Chapel of Sound is a stunning outdoor concert hall that was completed by OPEN Architecture in September 2021, and is nestled in the mountains around the Great Wall, right outside Beijing. Free to establish the scale and dimension of the design, Li Hu and Huang Wenjing, directors of the Chinese studio, chose to rest the structure softly upon the ground, as if it were an ancient mass that had collapsed ages and ages ago. All around, what appears to be unspoiled nature is in reality, upon closer inspection, an inhabited landscape where strange rock formations live harmoniously side-by-side with the remains and traces of manmade objects, pieces of the Great Wall, which have traversed the centuries and at times disappear swallowed by the vegetation. 

Chapel of Sound, OPEN Architecture, Beijing, China, 2021.
Inside the concert hall built in cement to create a dialogue with the surrounding landscape.

“I think it’s interesting how the work of man and nature intermingle here,” states Li Hu, thus acknowledging one of the design’s sources of inspiration. The hall, which rests minimally upon the ground, is built using cement with a mineral-rich, local stone aggregate. The only other materials used are copper and bronze. The acoustic quality, therefore, is obtained without any sound-absorbing materials by simply creating openings that allow the sounds to flow in and out. So three scenarios are possible, in which the sounds interact with the surfaces in different ways and can be experienced: individually, listening to the sounds of nature entering from the chapel; collectively, during concerts inside or at large events held outdoors.

Aranya International Cultural Development Co, the client, stands out on the Chinese construction scene for having as its main strategy the creation of spaces intended for group use – from theatrical performances to major music festivals – whose goal is also to reterritorialise social relations, which in cities are rapidly declining. According to an analogous plan, two years ago it opened the Duna Art Museum, an organic structure similar to a cave, buried under the sand dunes of Qinhuangdao and also designed by OPEN Architecture.

Chapel of Sound
Architecture studio:
OPEN Architecture
Directors of the studio:
Li Hu, Huang Wenjing
Aranya International Cultural Development Co.
Beijing, China
Completion date:
September 2021

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