World's first inflatable concert hall unveiled

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Sculptor Anish Kapoor and architect Arata Isozaki create an innovative performing space in Japan

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The world’s first inflatable concert hall has been unveiled and is due to open in the Japanese town of Matsushima next month. Ark Nova, a 35 metre-wide giant purple structure, seats 500 people and has been designed to tour Japan’s north-eastern coast following a devastating tsunami in March 2011.

The concert hall was designed by British sculptor Anish Kapoor and Japanese architect Arata Isozaki, and created in collaboration with the Lucerne Festival in Switzerland. Michael Haefliger, artistic and executive director of the Lucerne Festival, is one of the people behind the project.

‘The images of 11 March 2011, have left their mark on all of us. Since we at Lucerne Festival have maintained a very close relationship to Japan for many years, I felt a strong desire to make a contribution to overcoming the consequences of the catastrophe, within the scope of what we have to offer’.

Japan's north-east coast was hit by a magnitude 9.0-earthquake and tsunami, killing nearly 19,000 people and sparking a crisis at the Fukushima nuclear plant. The coastal town Matsushima, where the opening weekend will take place, was one of the places affected in the incident.

Explaining the idea behind the project Mr Kapoor said: ‘Ark Nova is the first mobile inflatable concert hall. We felt that the site in Matsushima, amidst the destruction of the tsunami, needed a temporary structure and an inflatable seemed to be appropriate’.

The structure is made of a coated polyester material consisting of a single skin membrane, allowing it to be easily inflated or deflated. Wood from tsunami-damaged cedar trees at the temple in Matsushima were used to create material for both acoustic reflectors and seating in the concert hall.

The opening weekend will consist of performances from the Sendai Philharmonic Orchestra as well as traditional Japanese kabuki theatre.

Declan Kennedy