Design and progress
The Kronberg Academy Foundation is charged with managing the construction of a chamber music hall (Casals Forum) and a study centre. It began by purchasing a plot of land next to the railway station in Kronberg from the town of Kronberg. An architectural competition organised jointly by the Kronberg Academy Foundation and the builder of the new hotel on the adjacent site (Contraco GmbH) led in 2014 to a contract being signed with Staab Architekten from Berlin. The renowned acoustician Martijn Vercammen was engaged to work with the architects on the plans for the concert hall. A special feature of the building project is the use of ice thermal storage technology, which allows both buildings to be operated in a climate-neutral way.
Architectural and urban development concept
The study centre will be integrated into the natural topography of the sloping site and will include two atria. It will thus symbolise the introspective concentration involved in pursuing a course of studies.
By contrast, the design of the pavilion-style concert hall building is intended to reflect how Kronberg Academy sees itself – as a place that encourages open-mindedness while creating the intimacy that is an essential part of the musical experience. Glass-like transparency will afford a visual link to the nearby park landscape.
The interior of the concert hall will give visitors and musicians an impression of spatial concentration inside a “wooden treasure chest” (to quote architect Volker Staab).
The proximity and interconnectivity of the two buildings – concert hall and study centre – will be a visible expression of the close relation between studying and giving concert performances that shapes Kronberg Academy’s value system.
A specially landscaped public square outside the chamber music hall, study centre and hotel will function as a relaxing oasis.
Sustainability and art in harmony
Both the construction and operation of the Casals Forum will be more environmentally friendly than any other concert hall to date. Planning and building work alike have followed the “Guideline for Sustainable Building” issued by the German Federal Government as a minimum, and in many areas have tried to go further. As well as soundproofing, the building is equipped with high performance thermal insulation and durable eco-friendly materials.
In addition, the entire Casals Forum is set to be Europe’s first climate-neutral concert hall thanks to the use of innovative ice thermal storage technology. Modern heat pumps supply heating and at the same time load an ice storage tank with waste cold, which is later used to provide free air conditioning. Only green electricity is used to power the system. Consequently, the current specifications laid down in the German Energy Saving Ordinance (ENEV 2016) are exceeded by 56%, which is unique for a concert hall accommodating 550 spectators. Finally, selecting a site in the immediate vicinity of the train station and hotel will lead to a dramatic reduction in the usual traffic emissions generated by audience members, musicians and staff.
The concert hall music experience
The new chamber music hall will seat around 550 people. The stage will offer space for soloists or small ensembles up to the size of a philharmonic chamber orchestra (65 musicians). The mid-range size of the hall, its flexible staging and the additional performance venues in the study centre will ensure conceptual openness and a family-like atmosphere. The basic shape of the hall, a “free form” with convex and concave walls, will enhance listeners’ impression of being close to what is taking place and “right at the heart of the sound”. The acoustic capacity of the hall will be roughly 5,500 m3.
The hall will be divided into a stalls area and a balcony area with roughly the same number of seats in each. The stalls will comprise 13 rows of seats, the rear third of which will be on a slight slope to ensure that audiences have a good view of the stage and enjoy an unimpeded flow of sound.