Capital’s stunning new symphony hall revealed in giant scale model – and it has full acoustics too!

Musician performing inside the model symphony hall. Sinfonia Varsovia/Facebook

Left reeling by the lockdown, Warsaw’s cultural scene received an unexpected boost earlier today after a mysterious wooden structure that had appeared outside the Palace of Culture & Science was revealed to contain half of a giant scale model of the city’s future symphony hall.

Already seeing action before, the stunning replica was first created on a 1:10 scale to help designers gauge the acoustics of the hall.

Alex Webber/TFN

A mysterious wooden structure outside the Palace of Culture & Science was revealed to contain half of the giant scale model of the city’s future symphony hall.Alex Webber/TFN

Maciej Czeredys, Sinfonia Varsovia’s deputy director of investment, told TFN: “Acoustic waves are unpredictable in their nature, so it’s typical to conduct these kind of tests on a model when constructing a concert hall.”

Doing so, however, was far from straight-forward and involved the painstaking creation of an accurate model; to enable technicians to judge how sound would behave every small detail had to correspond with the real thing – right down to the density and weight of the materials used.

Composed of over 3,000 elements, figurines were also added to the mock-up and dressed in felt vests so as to imitate how a living audience would absorb sound.

Figurines were used to imitate how a living audience would absorb sound.Press materials

To test the actual acoustics, sound was then played at a frequency ten times higher than usual so as to shorten the sound waves so that they would reverberate in precisely the same manner as those in the completed hall. 

Once expectations had been met, directors allowed individual musicians to play inside the faux hall for a string of recorded lockdown concerts, performances that some participants later described as being the strangest concerts of their lives.

The model was made up of over 3,000 elements.Sinfonia Varsovia/Facebook

“That was just a bit of fun,” says Czeredys, “a way to keep contact with our audience at a time when we weren’t able to play to the public.”

In some respects, the exhibition is a continuation of that need to maintain links with the symphony’s fanbase, and the open-air display – which will last a month – has been used as an opportunity to promote the story of Sinfonia Varsovia’s past as well as its future.

“The exhibition has already been postponed a couple of times before, but we essentially decided we couldn’t wait any longer,” continues Czeredys. “Besides, the new symphony facilities are a very expensive project, so we were desperate to show the tax payer what they were getting in return for their money.” 

Sinfonia Varsovia/Facebook

Directors allowed individual musicians to play inside the faux hall for a string of recorded lockdown concerts, performances that some participants later described as being the strangest concerts of their lives.Sinfonia Varsovia/Facebook

A quite extraordinary project, the competitive process to design the future seat of Sinfonia Varsovia was originally announced in 2010 and attracted 138 submissions from around the world.

The Austrian-based architectural practice Atelier Thomas Pucher was unanimously chosen ahead of all the other entrants, with their vision including a full re-haul of five historical buildings in the Kamionek district and a new concert hall fringed by “levitating”, wave-like balconies.

Merging a traditional shoebox design with a so-called vineyard configuration, the 1,877 capacity hall promises to become an A-class venue of international repute.Thomas Pucher

Merging a traditional shoebox design with a so-called vineyard configuration, the 1,877 capacity hall promises to become an A-class venue of international repute. 

“As things stand,” says Czeredys, “Warsaw lacks a truly great concert hall – for an orchestra to perform at their best, they need a hall that matches their talents, otherwise it’s almost like expecting them to play well with bad instruments.”

Already well respected on account of past collaborations with the likes of Yehudi Menuhin, Krzysztof Penderecki, Martha Argerich and Nigel Kennedy, the project is expected to lift Sinfonia Varsovia to another level while simultaneously re-energizing an area of Warsaw that has frequently been overlooked.

Austrian-based architectural practice Atelier Thomas Pucher was chosen ahead to design the hall, with their vision including a full re-haul of five historical buildings in the Kamionek district and a new concert hall fringed by “levitating”, wave-like balconies.Thomas Pucher

Financed entirely by Warsaw City Hall, the projected cost is expected to reach over PLN 430 million with completion tentatively sketched in for 2026.

“We’re very hopeful about that date,” says Czeredys, “but we are fully dependent on municipality funding – we’re hoping that the pandemic won’t lead to any setbacks.”

Described as “a visual pleasure”, for the time being culture fans will have to make do with the delicious preview on show outside the main entrance to the Palace of Culture & Science.Press materials

Described by Czeredys as “a visual pleasure”, for the time being culture fans will have to make do with the delicious preview on show outside the main entrance to the Palace of Culture & Science.

Set with informational boards outlining the full scope of the symphony’s activities, little doubt is left as to the impact that the investment will ultimately have.

“You won’t find many places like this elsewhere,” says Czeredys. “It will be incredibly beautiful, and having tested the acoustics for over three-months, we’re confident that the sound will be perfect as well.”