Yasuhisa Toyota: the Suzhou Jinji Lake Concert Hall

Jinji Lake Concert Hall: an intimate space for music made for the listener

People say, culture is the soul of a city, and music is the fluid expression of that soul.


“Architects and designers always consider the functional needs of the space first, before examining the actual design. The main purpose of the Jinji Lake Concert Hall is to serve as a home base for the Suzhou Symphony Orchestra, so it has to fulfill the function both as a proper rehearsal space and as a chamber performance venue. So in this limited area, the first and foremost goal of the acoustic design is to satisfy all the needs that such a venue requires. In this case, ‘being small’ can become an advantage for the Jinji Lake Concert Hall because it draws the audience into the focal point of this hall’s ultimate purpose. This ‘surround-style’ seating of the audience around the performance area is akin to a gathering of family and friends, which not only creates an immediacy between the performer and the public, but also stimulate the desire for interpersonal communication.”

— Yasuhisa Toyota, Acoustician of the Suzhou Jinji Lake Concert Hall

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Interview with Yasuhisa Toyota

SZSO: What is the importance, or advantage of a great acoustical design to the ordinary audience?

YT: The quality of the acoustical design in a concert hall cannot be evaluated in numbers and figures only, but has to be subjected to first-hand immediate sensations.  For me, the rapport between the music and its listener is a highly important factor. In a concert hall, it is possible that the listener is positioned as various distances from the very source of sound, i.e. the musicians. But if the acoustician can manage to eliminate the distance caused by the seating, and ensure the same proximity for every listener to the music, then he has succeeded.

SZSO: What would be a ‘bad’ acoustical system?

YT: To put it simply, when the sound seems very distant from the listener, that is a bad acoustic and unfortunately the reality that many concert halls have impressed upon their publics. Acousticians try to change this phenomenon through the correct deflection of sound.

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SZSO: After the concert hall is completed, can you continue to perform effective acoustical tests?

YT: It is not unfathomable to continue conducting some tests. The factors that affect the acoustics however, are the construction materials used on the walls, the kind of ceiling and soffits, the shape of the concert hall; such factors are not really changeable after the construction is completed. The most simple and effective way to make adjustment acoustically is to change the distribution and configuration on the performing area itself on stage. In other words, through changing the seating configuration of the musicians or adjusting the acoustical space behind the orchestra, the acoustical reality may be lightly modified.

SZSO: What do you mean when you say that the musicians and their way of playing should be adjusted according to the concert hall?

YT: At the beginning, the musicians are not accustomed to the sound they produce in the new concert hall. They may need to adjust the way they play, and consider the way their colleagues play. The new space requires the musicians to listen to one another, and look for a way of playing together during rehearsals, so that the sound of the orchestra will change as the progress matures. Time itself will change the acoustical environment in the concert hall; orchestra will gradually become accustomed to the concert hall. So the musicians themselves will contribute to the acoustical environment together with the acoustician.

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