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From top left: Tonhalle Maag, Zurich. © spillmann echsle architekten ag,  Photos: Hannes Henz

Unpretentiously beautiful Spillmann Echsle Architekten create unconventional concepts with a functional, yet highly aesthetic, outline. TEXT: CORNELIA BRELOWSKI

The temporary ‘Tonhalle’ concert hall in Zurich is a brand-new installation built inside an existing structure on the ‘Maag’, a former industrial site now housing various event spaces. The provisional, high-quality acoustic concert hall has just opened its doors and will be home to the ‘Tonhalle’ Orchestra for the next three years during the refurbishment of the original building. Apart from the spectacular aesthetic of the wooden installation itself, the project includes an entrance foyer and ticket office as well as recording rooms, lounges and large storage areas with direct stage access. Office and administration areas are also provided for. 26  |  Issue 55  |  October 2017

The rectangular acoustic room is constructed from oiled spruce, with precisely positioned, shifting wall panels that form the space. The provisional concert hall offers 1,224 seats in total with an orchestral stage measuring 19 by 11 metres. The ‘box in a box’ concept depicts its acoustic purpose with an honest functionality. On entering the former industrial hall, the visitor is met with the streamlined, haptic and unpretentious design and automatically led around the installation to find the entrances to the interior. Architect Harald Echsle explains the concept: “While the approaching visitor can take in the construction as a whole, once inside, the perfection of the space becomes apparent.”

Foyer, Tonhalle Maag, Zurich. © spillmann echsle architekten ag, Photo: Hannes Henz Sihlpost, Zurich. Photos: © Roland Tännler

Referring to challenges during construction, architect Annette Spillmann describes the process as having been “intense and full of unconventional ideas to bring the hall to life, with diverse variations aimed at optimising operations and the stage design itself”. Challenging framework conditions such as the restricted ceiling heights were tackled in cooperation with acoustic experts and ‘Tonhalle’ technicians. Apart from the acoustics, a central aspect of the provisional structure is visitor security. As the hall will be used by both the ‘Tonhalle’ Orchestra and guest events, it can easily be cleared and converted to any type of event or exhibition space housing up to 1,500 visitors. The architects have been familiar with the ‘Tonhalle’ orchestra ever since they were young and nowadays attend the family concerts with their own children. Thus,