PRINT December 1995

Herbert Muschamp


Why must it take the commission of a major new concert hall to inspire our architects to articulate the links between sound, space, time, and social occasion? Never mind: it’s rare enough to find even a concert hall where those connections are memorably expressed. So I give thanks for the new chamber-music hall Christian de Portzamparc has designed for the CITÉ DE LA MUSIQUE in Paris.

The hall is wrapped within a spiraling lobby, a disorienting shape to move through: it puts you in mind of music’s capacity for temporal displacement. The hall itself is shaped like an ellipse. Acoustical engineers doubted whether the design would work, but Portzamparc wanted this shape because he thought it would make a more sociable space. And he was right. Especially in the balcony seats, the hall allows a precisely pitched balance between sociability and concentration. (The design incidentally

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