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jean nouvel, danish radio concert hall, 2002-2009 | by seier+seier
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jean nouvel, danish radio concert hall, 2002-2009

danish radio concert hall, copenhagen, denmark 2002-2009.

architects: atelier jean nouvel.


studio 1, the main concert hall.


admirers of german architect hans scharoun and his work to reinvent the building typologies of prewar europe in the form of meaningful, democratic institutions and monuments will recognize his berlin philharmonic concert hall as the model for nouvel's copenhagen space. scharoun broke down the concert hall into terraces of seating surrounding the stage, each of them about the size of the stage, so as to dismantle the classical configuration of audience and orchestra as opposing sides.


I suspect there are sound values behind many of the strangest of nouvel's choices and here, for once, they become obvious.


the upper part of the room, however, remains a mystery to me: gypsum board curves painted in a stretched version of the evening sky from edvard munch's the scream, like some bad highschool photoshop project. I prefer munch's late paintings but mostly for not being the early ones. why I should be confronted with memories of the scream when going to a concert eludes me.


but a kind of pattern arises, telling us of nouvel's method, and it is confirmed when viewing the main concert hall from the outside where it is shaped as a meteor - its glowing lava interior shown here. the idea for the shape apparently came from reading that awful, danish novel, "miss smilla's sense of snow", whose central characters all hunt for a meteorite embedded in a glacier on greenland.


why this image should carry any significance in connection with a national radio concert hall is never explained and I doubt it ever will be. what we are looking at is a postmodern architect shooting from the hip. he believes in seduction and cinematic moments, he believes in storytelling and in tying a building to local culture. but the grand piano studio with a grand piano, the modern-architecture-as-scaffolding, the ceiling as the sky from munch's scream, and the concert hall as a meteorite from smilla, these images never come together because they are not connected except as popular culture's understanding of what higher culture must be.


ultimately, nouvel doing free associations on nordic culture is incoherent - he is giving us the architectural equivalent of a mixed metaphor and the necessary synthesis never occurs. that the building has obvious functional qualities and good acoustics is not enough exactly because it is so insistent on its own rambling imagery.


more words, yada, yada, yada.

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Taken on May 21, 2009