OCEAN Design Research Association

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Jyväskylä Music and Arts Center

Jyväskylä Music and Arts Center - Phase 2 - 2004
commissioned by Venice Architectural Biennale 2004
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Project Team Phase 02: Michael Hensel, Achim Menges, Defne Sunguroglu, Eva Scheffler, Shireen Han, Hani Fallaha, Andrew Kudless, Valeria Segovia Trigueros, Nazaneen Roxanne Shafaie, Cordula Stach, Nikolaos Stathopoulos, Muchuan Xu

I. Music, Art and Aalto

Jyväskylä is a town of 82.000 inhabitants located in central Finland’s lake-district. It is internationally renowned for its art and music scene and festivals, as well as for its higher educational institutions particularly in Music, the Arts and Cultural Research. Even more so it is famous for having been the hometown of Alvar Aalto, the Finnish grandmaster of modern architecture, for the periods between 1903 and 1916 and again from 1923 to 1927. Aalto matriculated in 1916 from the towns Classical Lyceum and established his office here together with his wife Aino between 1923 and 1927. He built in total 24 buildings in and around Jyväskylä. The town also features the Alvar Aalto Museum and the annual Alvar Aalto Symposium. The omnipresence of Music, Art and Aalto in Jyväskylä makes the Music and Art Center project a great challenge for architects that search for alternative spatial, formal, material and programmatic agendas.

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II. Context of Phase 02 of the project

OCEAN NORTH’s design for the Jyväskylä Music and Art Center commenced with the competition entry produced in 1997 [Phase 01] and continued with redesigning the project for the Venice Architectural Biennale 2004 [Phase 02]. Phase 02 retains the principle design ideas of the competition scheme, while re-defining its geometric, spatial, material and ambient articulation. The design of Phase 02 evolves from an iterative morphogenetic process alongside with extensive physical modelling. Through this morphogenetic design approach and the specific characteristics of the output of this process OCEAN NORTH seeks to respond to the theme of the Venice Biennale 2004: the Metamorph.

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III. Flow-Box

Situated on the perimeter of the Church Park Square in Jyväskylä, the Music and Art Center completes the urban grid and block structure with a simple box volume. Located across the road from Alvar Aalto’s City Theatre, the Music Center inverts the theatres formal logic. While the City Theatre is formally highly articulated on the outside, the Music and Art Center’s appears simple on the outside and exceedingly articulated on the inside. The interior of the box provides highly differentiated spatial, material and ambient experiences and extends the space of the town square park into an acoustically animated interior landscape. The varied directionality of material systems and material effects induces the perception of a force-field or flow. It registers a dynamic within the tectonic of the scheme. In its formal language the project refrains from symbolism and defines instead a landscape of unfamiliar spatiality, geometry and material effects for Music and the Arts.
IV. Event-Space

Most internationally renowned art and music festivals that take place in Jyväskylä, take place during the summer season [Jyväskylä Summer Jazz in June; Jyväskylä Arts Festival in June and July; Graphica Creativa from June to August; the Alvar Aalto Symposium in August, etc.].
Moreover, tourist information website for Jyväskylä states:” …summer tends to bring out the best in most people and things. At any rate it brings dozens of buskers and actors out into the streets and parks to play music to your ears.”
Since summer time is short in Finland the question arises as to what happens to those many kinds, scales and layers of outdoor festivals and animated street-life during the cold seasons. In response to this question the project aims to provide for an interior event space that does not only cater for the formal symphonic and orchestral events and art exhibitions, but also for informal small scale cultural activities that take part in the streets and parks. The lattice structure that articulates the interior provides therefore for surfaces that can act as small ad-hoc stages, theatres, seating areas, exhibition areas, etc. and invite informal events and activities into the building . While the highly differentiated space of the Music and Arts Center provides potential for these types of informal events it also involves the actual material systems in creating a hyper-articulated space of acoustic and visual intensities. The material systems that make up the building are partially sound-active. This extends acoustic experience beyond the interior of the actual music hall and rehearsal room into the interior landscape of the building volume. The sound-active systems can either be programmed such as to perform a composed piece and/or to respond to local movement pattern of visitors and performers inside the building .

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V. Indefinite Depth I: Material Vastness

The layered envelope of the Music and Art Center consists of a simultaneously transparent and reflective skin made from glass and ‘Magic Sheet’. Through the layered envelope the by-passer can catch glimpses of the varied, directionality and density of the structures and volumes drifting and swerving inside the box. Depending on the relational light conditions between inside and outside the by-passer can see more or less of the interior. With the exterior light source being stronger than the interior one, the façade is more reflective than transparent. With the interior light source being stronger then the exterior one the façade is more transparent than reflective. With the exterior and interior light conditions locally varied the transparency and reflection of the envelope too becomes locally varied across a gradient. The layered gradients of reflection and transparency result in the perception of a boundless space of indefinite depth.
VI. Indefinite Depth II: Spatial Vastness

The various systems of veering lattices result in a space whose bounding thresholds can always only be partially perceived. While the space of the box can be clearly comprehended as confined, it can not be perceived from the interior as a whole and as finite. Directionality, density and layering of the lattice and the buoyant surfaces and volumes that evolve from it result in the perception of a vast space that always continues somewhere where it can not be seen.
VII. Growing Differentiated Systems

Morphogenesis encompasses the process of formation of the structure of organism, as well as the process of growth and differentiation of tissues in living nature. Working with such processes in design is based on the realisation that the product of a bottom-up iterative growth process can become at each step more informed and its performance capacities increasingly interrelated in a coherent and synergetic manner. In contrast, a typical top-down compositional mode of design the product is merely a choice between one arrangement and another with uncertain increase in organisational coherence.

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VIII. Morphogenetic Process

OCEAN NORTH devised an iterative morphogenetic process that grows the project bottom-up. The scripted growth process evolves primary, secondary and tertiary lattice systems and is informed by rules pertaining to 1] the location, orientation and density of the struts that make up the lattice systems; 2] structural, light, acoustic and other functional requirements; 3] phase 01 design guidelines. The resulting lattice systems inform the geometries of the terrain, structure and envelopes of primary and secondary spaces and surface areas, circulation system and the sound-active system. The growth process commences from the definition and distribution of virtual volumes informed by the programmatic requirements of the competition brief. Subsequently a first set of definition points and search rules are defined that distribute and orientate the struts that make up the primary lattice system in response to the above outlined rule-set. From the primary structure a second set of virtual surfaces are defined on which a new set of definition points are derived. In a further iteration secondary and tertiary lattice systems are evolved that define mesh-like enclosures for the required internal volumes, and circulatory and sound-active systems.

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Publications by members of OCEAN
Hensel, M. and Menges, A. (2007). ‘Nested Capacities, Gradient Thresholds and Modulated Environments: Towards differentiated multi-performative Architectures’. In: Lally, S. and Young, J. eds. Softspace: From a Representation of Form to
a Simulation of Space. London: Routledge, 52-65.

Other Publications

Burry, J. and Burry, M. (2010). ‘Jyväskylä Music and Art Centre – OCEAN NORTH’. The New Mathematics of Architecture, London: Thames & Hudson, 68-71.
OCEAN – Conception Performative Exhibition Catalogue. (2008). FRAC Centre Orleans, France.
Foster, K. W. Ed. (2004). Metamorph - Trajectories 9th Venice Architectural Biennale Exhibition Catalogue. Venice: Fondazione La Biennale di Venecia & Marsilio, 42.
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