Gran Teatre Liceu, Barcelona (Spain)
Historically, within the continuous research for new technical solutions for improving the operation and possibilities of a major opera house, one of the most critical, but not least important, is the formulation of an acoustic shell easy to assemble, dismount and store. These three variables, in addition to the obvious exigency of achieving a proper acoustic result, are the conditions imposed for the construction design of any shell regarding its materials, arrangement, geometry, assembly, etc.
This problem; however, reaches its highest dilemma when, in addition to the above factors, it is indispensable to minimize the time required for the erection of the shell on the stage. To understand the reasons behind that extra condition we must realize that the programming of a major coliseum like the Liceo combines such a number of shows, rehearsals, events, etc. that the availability of the stage is a critical issue for them.
Liceo´s technical department always aspired to have an acoustic shell which reduced to a minimum the use of the stage, regardless of the actual time required for its set up. That is, they preferred a shell with a longer erection time, provided its actual “entry” into the stage was fast and safe. Based on that, Chemtrol, in collaboration with Liceo´s technical director and after a detailed preliminary study, concluded that the ideal shell for this venue should be one able of being assembled in one of the lowest level side wings, on top of the existing motorized stage wagons, allowing its movement to the stage lifts and up to centre stage, just like a “ghost ship” emerging from the ocean´s profound. This should be a modular, self-supporting structure capable of moving completely mounted. This would allow an efficient use of the stage, taking less than 30 minutes to bring the shell on stage!
The acoustic shell finally designed and built by Chemtrol presented dimensions of 13.35/9m opening width (downstage/upstage), 13.9m depth and 9.1/5.1m height (downstage/upstage). It was composed of 3 modular sections, each one with a ceiling piece and two sidewall towers, plus 4 backwall towers. All side and back towers were constructed with steel structures and included a perimeter catwalk for technicians´ transit. The ceilings were made of aluminium structure and rested on the side towers. They included the lighting fixtures and the air conditioning ducts. All structures were covered with 22mm oak plywood. As additional elements, the project included a chorus/orchestra rostrum and a secondary shell for small concerts and recitals performed in the forestage area.
Since 1999, the new Liceo owns a technical jewel to be proud of, as the result of a design process based on years of tradition and experience.
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