Music beholds the beholder! The abstraction of the sound of music hypnotizes the most rigid soul. A Performance space serves as a medium of entertainment, they narrate cultural lineage through creative musical choreography. Architecture has helped evolve these cultural spaces, it heightens the senses of the audiences and overfocuses the intangible emotion that music believes to be delivered.

The act of storytelling through musical harmony elevates emotions strongly, orchestrating dramatic experiences for the audience. Architecture and music , aim to deliver an experience and evoke emotions within anyone trespassing them. Musical theaters solely do not rely on sound management alone. Theater design is an amalgamation of sound and the surround. The orchestration of sensorium spaces to amplify its sound and surround is a key to theater design consideration .

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Musical theatre_©www.theatreartlife.com/lifestyle/looking-pursue-bfa-musical-theatre-acting-college/

For successful musical performance, theater design needs to implement various thought processes. The overall planning requires the inclusion of the law of nature and physics – optics, acoustics, and anthropometry.

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Live Musical performance on stage with orchestra_© University of Michigan School of music, theatre, and dance.

Sound isolation

The theater area has to be acoustically isolated from its surroundings. Theater spaces sharing common walls can manage to penetrate sound, disturbing the act. Effective soundproofing is to be ensured for all the materials covering the flooring, walling,  and ceiling area. Any incoming vibration or metallic noise from the machinery installed for the theater is to be eliminated. Improper placement of absorbing or reflecting materials can either create an echo or may swallow the sound. Entering an auditorium through a decently-lit vestibule room will prevent alienation of outside sound.

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Musical performance_© The Phoenix theater company – Ring of fire

Lighting and emergency

Surrounding lighting management is important for making the performance lively and enhancing the viewer’s experience. The lights are differentiated as per their use before and after the performance, during the performance with the musical performance for special effects , and while the theatre staff carries maintenance of the auditorium.

Indirect lighting for stairs and aisle help to guide the audience safely to their seats without accidents causing minimum disturbance to the existing audience. Emergency lighting for fire exit is always left visible to all inhabitants for escaping the theater in case of any emergency or crisis.

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Spooky light setting for Dr.Suess The Lorax © Old Vic Theater

Speakers and woofers

For better sound reproduction speakers are mounted on the ceiling, sidewalls, and back walls for surround sound quality. The speakers should be concealed with proper acoustic packing. A baffle wall behind the screen is needed to improve sound clarity. The sound coming from the speakers needs absorption and reflection from the baffle wall placed behind the screen.

Auditorium shape

Efficiently stacking the viewers in a theater in correspondence to the sightline, projection, and acoustics is a challenging task. The shape of the design is equally proportionate to the sound of the theater. The various auditorium shapes may lead to some advantages and disadvantages. During designing the theater interiors incorporation of the sub-elements is affected by their shape.

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Timber framed Shakespeare’s Globe open-air theater in London_©www.theaterseatstore.com/blog/history-globe-theater

Seating arrangement

The seating limit of spectators should be in good shape and within acceptable figures. The seats should be arranged considering the site line clearance of each viewer. The aisle division between the seats should not be compromised as they become the escape route during an emergency to evacuate a large crowd. The comfort and anthropometric quality of the seat should not cause any discomfort to its stationary audience.

Accessibility

A public building demands inclusive design planning. The entrances for any differently-abled may not be separate from the majority audience. The planning should be a locomotive to all patrons without any discomfort. A step-less entrance with a dedicated space for wheelchairs at a premium seating area makes them feel included in the act.  The supporting theater areas lobby and the complex should be free from any physical hindrance.

Differently-abled performers _© Chris Cameron

Fire proofing 

Corrective fire safety measures for a high-density structure are a primitive measure to design a public building safely. A theater building is layered with materials prone to fire and combustion. In such cases, the installation of the correct equipment and abiding by the fire safety rules is essential. A public building with sour events can lead to heavy casualties. Safety of the spectators, performers ,and the help staff is an important attribute of designing musical theaters.

Sustainability

A Theater building is a heavy services-oriented structure. The design demands the separation of each performance space from the surroundings for better functioning. Unlike an open-to-sky theatre, theater buildings require artificial support for lighting and ventilation. The non-performance spaces in a theater building can incorporate passive design techniques and switch to a sustainable material palette to reduce the overall load of the structure. 

Musical performance is an alive experience only successful if the surrounding theatrical settings are correctly planned and designed. Architecture is bound to optimize the audience’s satisfaction as a viewer. 

Next time when you visit a performance space do remember to notice all the supporting elements of design consideration that made the entire show vibrantly experiential! The shape of sound and the camouflage surroundings.

References:

  1. Baldwin. E. (2014). Architectural Drawings: 10 Theatre Plans that bring music to life . Architizer. Available at: https://architizer.com/blog/practice/details/architectural-drawings-theater-plans/ [Accessed: 8 March 2022].
  2. Jenks C. (2013). Architecture becomes music. The architecture Review. Available at: https://www.architectural-review.com/essays/architecture-becomes-music [Accessed: 8 March 2022].
  3. Theatre Design: 7 Basic rules for designing a good theatre. Arch20.   Available at: https://www.arch2o.com/theater-design-7-for-designing-a-good-theater/ . [Accessed: 8 March 2022].
  4. Jess (2019). The different types of musical theatres. Superprof.   Available at: https://www.superprof.com/blog/types-of-musicals/ [Accessed: 14th March 2022].
  5. https://www.bbc.co.uk/bitesize/guides/z27fyrd/revision/1
  6. https://www.britannica.com/art/theatre-design/The-goals-of-theatre-design
  7. Grundy I. (). How has the design of theatres changed over time? Theatres trust. Available at:
  8. http://www.theatrestrust.org.uk/discover-theatres/theatre-faqs/172-how-has-the-design-of-theatre-buildings-changed-over-time
  9. Theatre forms. Britannica.Available at: https://www.britannica.com/art/theatre-design/Theatre-forms   [Accessed: 8 March 2022].
  10. https://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/Technical_Theatre   [Accessed: 21 March 2022].
  11. Manna S. Dey N. (2019). Study on auditorium standards. Issuu.com.Available at: https://issuu.com/nayanikadeyn/docs/final_auditorium_ppt   [Accessed: 21 March 2022].
  12. How to design a cinema auditorium. Gjestland R. (2019). Available at: https://unic-cinemas.org/fileadmin/CinemaAuditoriumDesign_v1.0.pdf
  13. https://www.artscouncil.ie/uploadedFiles/wwwartscouncilie/Content/Arts_in_Ireland/Venues/Building_issues/TheatreForum_guidelines_arts_venues.pdf
Author

Nikita believes in constantly feeding all her curiosity by learning, unlearning and relearning. Being deeply passionate about trying things first hand, nothing thrills her more than adventures and new experiences refusing to missing out things in life. When in her me time she enjoys reading fictions and expresses through poems.

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