Serialised in The Building News and Engineering Journal from 1895
Introduction - Chapter 8 - Chapter 9 - Chapter 10 - Chapter 11 - Chapter 12 - Chapter 13 - Chapter 14 - Chapter 15 - Chapter 16 - Chapter 17 - Chapter 18 - Chapter 19 - Chapter 20 - Chapter 21 - Chapter 22 - Chapter 23 - Chapter 24 - Chapter 25 - Chapter 26 - Chapter 27 - Chapter 28 - Chapter 29 - Chapter 30 - Chapter 31 - Chapter 32
The following Chapters on this page are from an Article entitled 'Concert-Halls and Assembly-Rooms' by A. E. Woodrow, which was Serialised in several Volumes of 'The Building News and Engineering Journal' from 1895 to 1897. Of especial interest to this site are the Chapters on Music Halls and Variety Theatres which are covered in Chapters 21 onwards. So far I have been unable to find the entire Article but what follows is everything from Chapters 8 to 32. If you know the whereabouts of Chapters 1 to 7 and from 33 onwards please Contact me.
Many buildings of this class, as I have said, although public buildings, follow the lines of clubhouses in their internal arrangements, more especially where a casino is situated at some pleasure resort or watering-place. This particular kind of casino, besides containing a large ball-room, has generally a suite of reading and refreshment rooms, and the great art in the planning seems to be to adapt the building for the purposes of a large or small numbers of visitors, with the possibility of using it for all manner of entertainments.
Such buildings exist, to some extent on similar lines, at our own fashionable watering-places, as at the Spa, Scarborough, and to a smaller extent the Pavilion, at Whitby. The casino of the watering-places of the Continent combine the advantages of a social club, a common dining-room, a restaurant, library, reading-room, and a hall suitably constructed for a concert-hall and a theatre. In wet weather the hall becomes the morning promenade or the children's play-room, and a small entrance-fee makes it a paying concern.
There seems to be a regular system in laying-out a Continental watering-place on German lines, with an esplanade on the sea front, an hotel quarter, hot baths, bazaars, music-pavilions, cafes, &c.
In the magnificent dancing establishment of Saarbruck, we find (Fig. 1) on the ground-floor plan that the approach is made to the entrance by two flights of broad steps, flanked on either side by a wide terrace. The entrance-lobby has three doorways, and an inner lobby leads to the hall, to the right of which is the grand staircase (see Section, Fig. 3).
The arrangement of the double set of doors through which the visitor must pass to reach the inner hall, insures the exclusion of cold draughts of air, when the guests arrive or depart.
Immediately in front of the entrance are two reception-rooms, A A, while on the left of the hall a billiard-room, C, is placed, with a refreshment-room, B, opening out of it at one end, and a buffet, D, at the other. In the corner of the buffet is the service staircase to the kitchens below. A reading-room of ample dimensions completes the ground floor.
On the first floor (Fig. 2), the centre of the building is occupied by the dancing-hall G, which will be seen by the section to be carried up higher than the surrounding rooms, and to have a musician's gallery over the entrance door. The dancing-hall is arranged so that at one end there is an open balcony over the entrance vestibule below, which on warm evenings, is found to be a most pleasant addition to the room.
To reach the dancing-hall, one ascends the grand staircase from the inner entrance vestibule; from the top landing of this staircase is entered the ladies' saloon J, with the ladies' cloak-room (L) close at hand, yet out of the direct line of traffic. This cloakroom is provided with two w.c.'s, and its position is admirably thought out, being close to the hall, and yet not in a conspicuous place. The gentlemen's retiring-rooms, w.c., urinals, &c., are on the ground-floor, immediately below the ladies' " toilette." The ladies' saloon is connected by a doorway with the dancing-hall.
On the left of the landing of the grand staircase, and immediately opposite the ladies' saloon, is the drawing-room, for the use of those who wish to rest during the dances. From this is a passage-way, divided off from the dancing-room by an open colonnade, which leads to the buffet for light refreshments. This arrangement is excellent, as people can pass across the dancing hall without interfering with the dancers or being interfered with by them; at the same time it allows a space for people to stand in who wish to watch the dances without getting in their way. Leading out of the dancing-hall is a large supper-room, approached by two doors. This supper-room is also connected with the buffet, which during supper acts as the "service" room, and is in communication with the kitchens in the basement by a separate staircase and lifts.
Von Baumbach's Casino in Berlin (Figs. 4 and 5) is a smaller example of a public dancing-hall. The hall is situated in the centre of the block, and is two stories in height.
On either side of the entrance are the cloakrooms (D) and retiring-rooms (F), the buffet (C), and small drawing-room (E) ; while a larger drawing-room (A) occupies nearly the whole of the other side of the dancing-hall (B).
On the first-floor level are private boxes (G), with openings overlooking the dancing-room. On the same level is the minstrel gallery (K). Under the hall is a restaurant and billiard-room connected with a garden (X).
There are two special features in this plan: the private boxes for spectators to watch the dancing, and the amount of space allowed for rooms in which to withdraw from the dancing, the area of these rooms being quite two-thirds of the area of the dancing-room itself. No doubt this provision prevents the dancers being overcrowded by onlookers, and gives room for those who cease dancing to leave the floor space clear for those going on.
Adelige's Casino in Vienna (Figs. 6 and 7) is a building of a somewhat different character to the last, the dancing-room being connected with, and, in fact, subsidiary to, the dining-rooms (B C) and restaurant (D). The entrance to the public staircase is by a carriage-drive through a courtyard.
The ground floor is used for restaurant and dining purposes, and the dancing-room (I) is situated on the first floor, with smoking-room (H), reading-room (G), card-room (K), and billiard-room (L) all in connection therewith.
The smoking-room is also used as a reading-room, the other room being set aside for non-smokers.
There are several other kinds of casino which I have not mentioned here, besides the one at the seaside, which is only open some six months in the year: the one which partakes of the character of a club, that which is connected with a restaurant, and that which is a public dancing-room only.
There should be included in the list, the Continental town casino, which partakes more of the character of our provincial town hall, only that it is erected for public amusement only, not ostensibly for public business and then used entirely for amusements, as is the case with some of our vestry halls.
Whatever the class or character of the building, and whatever way it is used, the architect would do well to remember that a casino is for the use of large numbers of people assembled together in a more or less confined space, from which easy ingress and egress must be provided. As the building is for an assembly standing and moving about, it is quite true that as many people will not be in the hall or room at one time as if the audience were packed and seated in rows of chairs; it is easier, no doubt, for a large number of dancers to reach the exits quickly than for a like number who have to rise from their seats and traverse the space between the rows of chairs. The former crowd is not a packed crowd. Naturally they have a certain freedom of movement which a seated audience cannot obtain.
But, in in spite of this, the question of their safe exit should be most carefully considered. In Figs. 8 and 9 are seen plan and section of the large and important Casino of Oldenberg . The architect of the building was Herr Ludwig Wachtler. This building was erected in 1870-72, and was the result of a competition which had rather a curious history - not an unusual thing with regard to competitions. It appears that a jury of seventy-four was appointed to judge upon the eight sets of drawings sent in; of this jury twenty-four were technically trained experts and fifty were laymen. A firm of architects were awarded the premium of £60, but Mr. Wachtler was asked to carry out their design. He, however, promptly refused to do any such thing, but undertook to amend his own design to the suggestions of the committee. His original scheme was for a Gothic building, but this he abandoned, and produced the Renaissance design which was carried out.
The plan shows that the building covers a large and irregular site, and to arrange the looms so that their proportion would be suitable for public purposes, was no easy matter. The irregularity, however, was very cleverly thrown into the centre of the plan by making the landing vestibule (P) at the top of the chief staircase follow the lines of the boundary of the site. Round this, the public rooms are grouped, and made rectangular.
It will be seen that there are two halls, a larger (C) and a smaller (A), both available for dancing or public meetings. There are three public staircases, the chief one, which leads to the landing vestibule in the centre, and one at the end of each hall for additional means of exit. There is a suite of three supper-rooms (B, B, B) at one end of the building, with smoking-room (D) and refreshment-room (E) at the other. The cloakroom and lavatory accommodation is arranged in the middle of the building, with ventilation into the areas. The ground floor is occupied by shops, an exchange, and club-rooms. The large room is 23.4m. long by 13.85m. wide, and 15.7m. high, while the small room measures 18.97m. by 10.51m. By 12.01m. Round both of the rooms are galleries.
It may be interesting to glance at two plans designed
by different architects for a casino for a small manufacturing town.
Here it was required to introduce a terrace leading to a garden. Fig.
10 represents the plan that was carried out; Fig. 11, that of another
architect. The accommodation is practically the same in both plans,
but there is no doubt the grouping is far better in Fig. 10, and the
plan more compact.
Images in this chapter were by Mr. Shoppee, the architect of 'one of the best drill-halls in London', the St. George's Rifles Drill-hall and Headquarters.
The drill-hall assumes at times the character of a concert-hall or assembly-room, although it is not always the most fitting place for such a purpose, and as it is built primarily for a drill-shed, its shape is often not the best for a seated audience. Many drill-halls are nearly square on plan - they are much wider in proportion to their length than rooms built exclusively for public entertainment, while others, as in the case of the drill-shed of the Honourable Artillery Company, are very long in proportion to their width. There is not the same reason for strict rules of shape and proportion in a drill-hall, where only drilling and gymnastics take place, as in a room used for music or speaking, where proportion and acoustics play so important a part.
Referring to the shape of a hall for public speaking or music, the length, width, and height must, of course, be greatly governed by local conditions; but the length should be considerably greater in measurement than the width. The height depends upon the shape of the ceiling. As a general rule, a writer says, for measuring the proportions, one can take the height of the hall to be equal to from two-thirds to three-quarters the width, or half of the diagonal of the length and breadth of a rectangular room. Fergusson gives that the height should be half the breadth plus the 2✔ of the length. In order to increase the height of a hall, the floor may be made lower by a few steps than the surrounding rooms, by which means a pleasing outlook over the hall and dancers is acquired. One can also improve the appearance of a room where height is actually deficient by emphasising the vertical lines, either by pilasters or in colour decoration, and making the horizontal lines subordinate. On the other hand, a room which appears too high can be made to look lower by accentuating the horizontal lines, and omitting as many vertical lines as possible. The pilasters and columns in Willis's Rooms show an example of a method adopted to make the room look lofty.
The entrance to a hall is much better when at one of the short ends, than when in the middle of the long side. The first impression of length is much more impressive and imposing - and it is the first impression which is the most lasting.
The drill-hall has other disadvantages besides that of shape. The floor is often laid as a woodblock floor, which is not suitable for dances. Even when formed as a close-boarded floor its surface becomes so rough with the marching and drilling of the men, that it is quite unfit for dancing. At the drill-shed of the Honourable Artillery Company, when dances are given, a false polished parquet floor is laid over the other floor. This false floor is made in actions, to be laid down quickly: but each section fits perfectly into the other, providing an even surface for dancing upon.
The buildings in which drill-halls are incorporated are, on account of being the headquarters of a corps, frequently arranged upon the lines of a club, and it is therefore we find, as in the case of the headquarters at Finsbury of the Honourable Artillery Company a fine hall or dining-room on the first floor. These premises are no doubt exceptional, containing, as they do, accommodation for every kind of active recreation, besides reading-rooms, billiard-room, smoking-room, dressing-rooms, harness-rooms, &c.
The illustrations to this chapter have been supplied me by Mr. Shoppee, the architect of one of the best drill-halls in London, the St. George's Rifles Drill-hall and Headquarters. Complete plans and sections of the building have been specially prepared from Mr. Shoppee's own drawings to accompany this article.
It should be understood that this hall was built first as a drill hall, and that afterwards it was occasionally used as an assembly-room, and also that it is a room licensed for music and dancing.
The hall itself is situated on the ground floor, a few steps above the street level. There is a broad entrance in the centre of the front facade, on one side of the entrance is the officers' room, while the colonel and secretary's private apartments are situated on the other. By the side of these rooms is a staircase leading down to the basement and up to the two floors above.
The hall itself is over 80ft. Long by 58ft. Wide and 40ft. High to the apex of the roof, 22ft. to the wall-plate. The size and shape of the room admirably adapts it for the purpose for which it was principally designed - that is, for the purposes of a drill-hall. At the extreme end of the hall is an extra exit, leading directly into the back street; near this exit is the armoury. In the basement one finds a large space devoted to the school of arms, the Morris tube gallery, and the volunteer stores. The front part of the basement is arranged as a canteen for the men, with a billiard room attached. There is a lift from the canteen to the kitchen on the second floor, which allows for the quick service of refreshments. The lavatory accommodation for the men is also situated at this level, there being lavatories both in the front portion near the canteen, and in the back portion near the school-of-arms, the latter, in addition to the wash-basins, &c., being provided with a bath. The orderly room near the staircase completes the arrangement of the basement.
The front part of the building is carried up two stories. The whole of the first floor is occupied by a large recreation-room, out of which a small gallery can be reached which overlooks one end of the hall. The recreation-room is connected with the kitchen above by the same lift, which serves the canteen in the basement. On the second floor is an officer's dressing room, with lavatories, a library, and a kitchen, while the attics are used as the living-quarters of the caretaker.
It will be seen that a building arranged for these purposes, and in this manner, can be adapted to the purposes of a public assembly hall. When occupied in this manner, the hall is provided with rows of chairs battened together in lengths of sixes, in order to comply with the regulations of the Council. The doors are fitted with automatic bolts, exit notices are displayed on the walls, the gas-burners are fitted with secret taps, and oil-lamps are burnt as a second system of lighting. By this means a building which has been erected as volunteers' headquarters, has been made to comply sufficiently with the regulations of the London County Council, to enable the authorities to issue a certificate of safety, and a license has been obtained to use the building as a concert-hall and an assembly room.
The fact that the hall is practically on the street level, and has exits both back and front into public thoroughfares which the audience can reach without traversing any passage, corridor, or staircase, makes these premises particularly suitable for public assemblies.
It may be thought strange to assert that there is less danger from fire and panic in a building of this class than in many other structures which it has been my duty to describe in this series or articles. The reason for this diminution of risk arises from the fact that these buildings are maintained under military discipline, the persons in charge being trained to watchfulness and prompt action. After all, in spite of every provision being made by the architect in the planning and construction of a building, much more depends upon the fire-watch than the proprietors of places of this sort are willing to acknowledge. It is seldom that one finds a properly organised fire-watch in the minor class of assembly rooms to which I have had to refer. It is true that in the last revision by the Council of their regulations they inserted a rule that every hall having a superficial area of 1,000ft. or more should be provided with a fire hydrant connected with the high-pressure water main, and of a pattern and size to allow fittings to be used of the same description as those employed by the Metropolitan Fire Brigade.
In halls of a smaller superficial area, corridor fire-engines and buckets are allowed, the prompt use of which is as efficacious on the first outbreak of fire as a subsequent employment of a hydrant. It is in the use of these appliances, as well as in the special ability to command obedience, that those who have received a military training are particularly fitted to have charge of premises in which the public assemble in great numbers.
While speaking of fire appliances and the fire-watch, requisite for the small assembly-room, it will not be out of place to remember that provision must be made for special care where temporary stages are erected for theatrical performances.
I have already described in a former chapter the character and light construction of these stages, their great inflammability, and the special fire risks which attend them. Fire-buckets full of water, with a small bucket-pump and wet blankets, should always be placed upon the stage for ready use; buckets and blankets should also be found in the dressing-rooms.
There are a few remarks with regard to gas arrangements which I should like to make before I conclude my description of these minor assembly-rooms and pass to the consideration of those of the larger class.
It is well always to place the gas-brackets, both in the hall and its approaches, out of reach of the audience under any circumstances. They should be provided with secret taps, so that they can only be turned out by the attendant who has the key. In the rooms which, when performances are given, will be used as dressing-rooms, it must be remembered that the amateurs will require as much light to make up by as the professional in the dressing-room of a theatre. It is as dangerous to use candles or lamps in rooms of this kind as it is in a theatre, and unless proper gas-brackets are provided, and the points placed where required, the risk is that the thoughtless amateur will provide his own light, and then the danger becomes very great indeed.
Images begin again at Fig 1
There are several large establishments to be found in German towns, which are built by subscriptions raised among the wealthy inhabitants of the town, for the entertainment and recreation of their fellow-citizens. These establishments are very complete in their arrangements, and are carried out on a large scale.
The two examples which here illustrate this particular type of building are the Gesellschaftshaus "Harmonie" in Heilbronn, and the assembly-rooms in Kothen. Of the former, Fig. 1 gives the ground plan, and Fig. 2 the first-floor level. The architect was Mr. Rob. Reinhart, who erected the building between 1875 and 1877. The site is an isolated one, with the exception of the one end where the carriage-way A, Fig. 1, passes under the assembly-hall. The cost of the building, exclusive of the architect's fees, was £15,000, being £11 10s. per metre superficial, or 15s. Per cubic metre.
On the ground floor are public refreshment-rooms and a public-house, and rehearsal-room for the artists with stage, between which is placed the large cloakroom facing the central or grand vestibule.
This vestibule is approached from the chief entrance used for the public visiting the assembly-halls on the first floor, and from it the grand staircase starts.
The front portion of the ground floor is occupied by the rooms in connection with the club, reading-room, card-room, billiard-room, and reception-room.
There are two halls on the first floor, the larger being 330 square metres, the smaller 150 square metres; they are most elaborately decorated with frescoes by the well-known artist, Herr Lesker. It is only necessary to examine the plan to see how complete the whole arrangements have been made so as to adapt this suite of assembly-rooms for all kinds of public meetings and receptions.
The assembly-rooms in the small provincial manufacturing town of Kothen are of a peculiarly German type. Like the former, they have been erected by subscription; but they not only cater for the wants of the inhabitants of the town, but also for those coming in from the surrounding country to entertainments at these rooms.
The ground plan (Fig. 3) shows that there is a long range of stables (A) for the accommodation of the horses of those who come by road, and there are several guests' bedrooms (G) for those who are unable, for various reasons, to reach their home at reasonable hours. The architects of this building were Professor Ende and Buckmann; the former is the artist and the latter the business man of the firm. Their office is one of the largest in Berlin, as they employ some 40 to 50 assistants. Considering the position which the professor holds in the German architectural profession, that he has held the office of President of the Prussian Academy, only occupied by two architects since its foundation, that he is an honorary corresponding member of the R I B.A., and the doyen of the profession in Germany, it is with wonder we English architects hear that the firm of which he is the head are architects and contractors combined, not only designing, but actually carrying out, their own work. We must, however, pass on to the consideration of the ground plan, Fig. 3.
The site, an irregular one, was a very difficult one to deal with, and shows a great amount of skill in the way the rooms are grouped. The various requirements of this particular establishment were numerous, as I have said, not only the town folk, but the country people, had to be considered.
A large kitchen and suite of rooms for the service was therefore necessary, as well as a public restaurant; a big staff of servants had to be accommodated, and a place found for a dwelling for the caretaker or manager, and all of these had to be so planned that they would not curtail the available space for the assembly-rooms themselves.
On the ground floor, therefore, are all these adjuncts, and a strange feature of this plan is that a carriageway goes right through the building from back to front, so that it is possible, after "putting down" the guests at the vestibule under cover, for the coachman to drive through to the stables in the rear.
The whole of the first floor (Fig. 4) is occupied by the extensive suite of apartments of the assembly-room proper. All sorts of entertainments can be given here, as the great hall (A) is provided with a stage.
In Germany we find that there are buildings used for concert-rooms and assembly-halls in connection with botanical or zoological gardens, as well as with the large public parks; for instance, there is the institution known as the Flora Hall in Berlin, the Palm House in the Botanical Gardens in Frankfort, and the assembly rooms in the Zoological Gardens of the same city. There are so many examples of this type of concert-room that it is difficult to choose the plans to illustrate them. However, in Figs. 5 and 6, I have chosen plans which fairly set forth the class of building to be found in these cases.
In the Palace Gardens of Frankfort (Fig. 5) is built the Palm House Assembly Rooms, a large hall let off for all classes of public entertainment, with a huge palm-house at the back of it.
The original building was erected by subscription, and the architects were Kayser and Thelemann. The hall was opened in 1870, the grounds were extended in 1875, and again in 1885; but the hall was destroyed by fire in 1876, and the one which forms the subject of the illustration was erected in its place by the architect, Herr Schmidt.
The building is of some architectural pretensions, Italian Renaissance in style. The internal decorations are somewhat lavish, the segmental ceiling being painted with frescoes representing "the delights of eating and drinking," not a subject which would appeal to everyone as particularly dignified or appropriate for a large public hall. The palm-house is used for promenading and for refreshments.
In 1874, Professor Kayser was commissioned to erect the large concert-hall in the Zoological Gardens, he having won the competition for the designs of the building. Fig. 6 gives the plan, which shows that in addition to the large hall there is a small "symphony " hall for chamber music. In the rear of the building is a loggia and a large terrace in two tiers, from which a fine view of the lake can be obtained. These terraces are largely used in summer, being arranged with tables for the service of refreshments.
In all these plans it will be seen that the German never forgets to provide plenty of room where he can sit down and drink his beer, and it has even been suggested that the provisions of the bedrooms in these public establishments is partly necessitated on account of the after-effects of the liberal potions indulged in.
One of the largest assembly rooms of Leipsic is the Crystal Palace, which has an historical past. Erected originally by Schinkel, it has seen several fires, till finally the group illustrated in block plan, Fig. 8, was developed. In 1882 the front portion of the building was erected chiefly in iron and glass. In 1886 a large circus was added behind the building, with stables, offices, all necessary adjuncts, and a diorama above. In 1891-92 a large winter garden was erected in the space between the assembly rooms and the circus; different architects were employed for the various additions to the building.
On the ground floor of the front block is a large public restaurant with treasury on the right and offices on the left. This restaurant is about 80ft. square.
The first floor is occupied (Fig. 7) by an assembly-hall reached by two broad staircases from the entrance passages below.
In connection with this hall is a suite of rooms with an inner or smaller hall. Elaborate precautions have been made as to exits, and the staircases are 12ft. wide.
The large hall, which is called the Theatre Room, is 100ft. by 75ft., and has a stage 50ft. wide by 30ft. deep. The smaller hall is 90ft. by 50ft., and on account of the colour of its decoration is known as the Blue Room. There is a foyer 80ft. in length and 20ft. broad between these two halls.
With regard to the garden and winter-garden, which occupy the space between the assembly-rooms and the circus, there is nothing of especial interest to mention. There is a glass and iron colonnade between the winter-gardens and the assembly-room block of ordinary construction; but as to the circus, it is noteworthy that this is also used as a concert-hall when not occupied as a circus, the "ring" being boarded over and seated as the "area" floor.
Between the garden and the circus is a large promenade foyer. I shall not enter into a detailed description of the arrangements of the circus building here, as I reserve to a future time all references to buildings of this particular class.
Images begin again at Fig 1
The Images in this Chapter all relate to the King's Hall of the Holborn Restaurant, however, none of the images are referred to by their Figure Numbers M.L.
Of the concert halls and assembly rooms attached to a public restaurant, there is nowhere in London a more perfect example than the King's Hall of the Holborn Restaurant.
Mr. T. E. Collcutt, with his characteristic good-nature, has lent me his drawings from which to make my illustrations; and Mr. Hamp, the well-known manager of this vast establishment, has given me every information.
I would draw attention to one important fact which emphasises the great skill of the architect in obtaining such good results; that this is, after all, but an addition to an old building, and therefore the free hand in planning a new building was, to a great extent, restrained, as due account of its use in connection with the existing parts of the premises had to be taken.
Naturally, in speaking of a restaurant, one looks upon the assembly hall attached thereto first as a large banqueting hall, and as such we must first consider the King's Hall.
The seating accommodation at a banquet in this hall is for 500, and there is room for another hundred guests in the balconies, which run the full length of either side.
A particular feature is the range of three private boxes at one end overlooking the hall; these were specially devised for the convenience of ladies, friends, and distinguished guests who might wish to witness the proceedings, listen to the music, and hear the speeches, or perhaps see their husbands dine.
At the end opposite these private boxes is placed the minstrel gallery, which will hold some 60 or 70 musicians.
Perhaps the next use in importance to which the King's Hall is put is for dancing, and for this purpose the floor has been specially prepared.
It has been described as "a polished floor laid down on a very ingenious principle, whereby the planks are perceptibly elastic to the foot, combining buoyancy and noiselessness."
For soirees or entertainments, where the crowds are constantly on the move, the building has the advantages of large and beautiful crush-rooms, wide staircases, overlooking balconies, and space under the balconies for seats out of the way of the dancers or promenaders.
Mr. Hamp, as a public caterer, knows the need of ample cloakroom space. It is, therefore, on the ground plan that one finds the large room for hats and coats in addition and separate from the big areas given up to ladies' and gentlemen's retiring-rooms. Provision is even made in connection with the latter for a dressing-room in which the busy man arriving late may change into his evening dress at the last moment.
The hall is adapted to public meetings and concerts by being seated with chairs battened together in lengths, and by placing a movable platform at the end under the minstrel gallery, its acoustic properties are excellent alike for music or speaking.
The entrance hall is so arranged that guests arriving can enter at the lobby on the north end, and pass into the crush-room through a pair of swing doors, which exclude the draughts and night air; but for departure there are doors leading directly from the crush-room into the street, so that several carriages can "take up" at one time, expediting the departure of the guests, and avoiding that nuisance of waiting in draughty passages.
Over the crush-room, and approached by the grand staircase, is another crush-room of equal size, which leads to the King's Hall, and on the floor above are four private dining or drawing-rooms of varied sizes.
Under the King's Hall is the Council Chamber, a room that can be used for many purposes either in connection with the King's Hall or separately.
It is suitable as a supper-room when a ball is given, a refreshment-room and promenade when a soirée takes place, a lounge or assembly-room for a banquet, or as a separate room of public entertainment, for concerts, lectures, private theatricals, &c., when the King's Hall is too large for the requirements of the entertainer.
The safety of the public - a consideration first and foremost in my mind - is not overlooked in this building. Ample and wide staircases and exits are provided at both ends of the buildings at all levels.
The basement is occupied by "service" and one of the finest "private" electric light chambers in London.
The "service" in connection with the King's Hall is most perfect - that is to say, the system adopted has worked without a hitch.
On every level there is an oblong service-room, with several ordinary "dinner" lifts against the wall, as shown on the plans.
From these service-rooms and lifts the waiters obtain their "dishes," and can simultaneously serve 500 guests in the banqueting-hall. It is this "service" which is the connecting link between the restaurant and the assembly room.
Note: The Images in this Chapter all relate to the King's Hall of the Holborn Restaurant, however, none of the images are referred to by their Figure Numbers ML
Images begin again at Fig 1
Accompanying Photographs of the Monte Carlo Casino are by ML March 2014
Above - The Monte Carlo Casino in March 2014 - Photo ML
The seaside casino, with its theatre, concert-hall, assembly-rooms, &c., has nowhere been carried out with greater magnificence than at the far-famed Casino of Monte Carlo. No excuse seems necessary to explain why this building should find a place under the heading of "Concert-Halls and Assembly-Rooms," for it is one of the most celebrated establishments in Europe. I have therefore ventured to adapt a plan and a few details of the building from the Arehitektonische Rundschau by way of illustration.
The casino is, of course, chiefly noted for its gaming-tables, from which one million pounds per annum, or nearly so, have been realised during the past few years.
Above - The Monte Carlo Casino in March 2014 - Photo ML
It is not my province to relate how the money is made and how the money is spent, nor how the establishment is run as a gambling company under the registered title of the "Societe des Bains de Mer et Cercle des Etrangers de Monaco." As far back as 1853 a thirty years' concession was granted by the late Prince Charles to a company to enable them to carry on a gambling business. In 1860 the concession passed into the hands of Francois Blanc for its unexpired term.
Above - The Monte Carlo Casino in March 2014 - Photo ML
This man died in 1877; but during his tenure, I believe I am correct in stating that a new casino was commenced, consisting of a large card-room (F, Fig. 1) or "Salle Mauresque," which was completed before his death. In 1871 M. Charles Garnier, of Paris Opera House fame, added the magnificent theatre (B), the promenade hall (A), and vestibule (V), and since Blanc's death other rooms (C C) have been added to the establishment.
It is related that M. Blanc died worth seven million pounds, and that the secret of his success was due to the spirit of "largesse" which he displayed in working all his enterprises. An example has been quoted how, when he heard that five million francs were required to complete the Paris Opera House, he pulled out his chequebook and wrote an order for the amount.
But I am diverting from the consideration of this establishment from the architect's standpoint, so I would refer my readers who wish to learn the historical and financial particulars of the Casino to the December number of the Pall Mall Magazine, where Mr. John J. Waller fully describes all such matters of interest to the general reader.
Referring to the plan, Fig. 1 it will be seen that one of the chief entrances leads into a vestibule (V), with the bureaux (II) on one side and the cloak-room (H) on the other. From this vestibule is approached the central feature of the group of rooms or saloons - namely, the promenade hall, erected by Garnier. This hall is connected on its three sides with the various saloons of the establishment; in the wall, opposite the vestibule, are the entrances to the theatre; on the one side are the reading-rooms (C C), on the other the card-room (G), with the grand card-room or Moorish saloon (F) beyond.
The theatre (B), although connected with the promenade hill (A), has its separate grand entrance (W) and independent vestibule. This theatre is built of white freestone, with pink marble pillars and dark red marble enrichments to the windows; the decorations throughout are of rich character, mosaics entering largely into the design. The auditory is square in plan, measuring 20 metres each way, and 19.50 metres in height to the top of the ceiling, 11.80 metres to the cornice. The ceiling is richly decorated in frescoes, and the proscenium frame painted to harmonise with the lavishness displayed in the whole interior. The colour study is in red and gold, and the subjects of the frescoes in the four panels of the ceiling are "The Dance," by Clairin "The Play," by Lix ; "The Music," by Boulanger ; and "The Song," by Feyen-Perrin. Opposite the stage is the State box for the Prince of Monaco, while there are other open boxes formed on the balcony level.
The side-walls are divided into three equal panels; those on the inside wall are filled with large mirrors, which reflect the opposite openings, through which the sea can be seen. In the four angles of the auditory are niches, where candelabras are placed. There is a small stage (D), beyond which are the green-room (E) and the dressing-room. This theatre was built with astonishing rapidity, considering the amount of work contained therein, the time occupied being but six months. The cost was three million franca.
A very good idea of the architectural treatment of the interior of the theatre can be gathered from the photograph looking towards the proscenium, which is reproduced in the article I have already referred to, and the character of the design of other parts of the building can be obtained from the detail sketches here produced.
Fig. 2 is the enrichment of the box fronts of the private boxes, which occupy the two corners next the proscenium. Fig 3 is a detail over one of the windows, while Fig. 4 is a door-head, Figs. 5 and 6 being other details from the same building.
The "Salle de Jeu," or Moorish room (Fig. 1, F), is arranged with a centre settee, and in each of the recesses is placed a gambling or roulette table, round which the chairs of the players are placed.
The maintenance of the theatre, orchestra, and other amusements connected with the Casino cost the company £30,000 a year. The leading artists of the operatic stage are engaged for the theatrical performances, and the orchestra has the reputation of being one of the finest in Europe.
Londoners will soon have an opportunity of judging for themselves, as it will he heard at the Imperial Institute this coming season.
Fig. 7, the Public Hall at Neustadt, is an example of a building erected to meet the requirements of visitors. Neustadt is a small town at the foot of mountains, and a favourite meeting-place for gatherings of artists. In order to accommodate the special meetings held in the place the town-folk resolved to erect this large hall, and a committee invited a competition, in which twenty-five architects entered. A Frankfort architect, Mr. Lieblein, was placed first, and Professor Geul second; but Professor Geul appears to have carried out the work, adopting some of Lieblein's ideas as to the arrangement of the ground floor.
The grand hall is 572 square metres area between the pillars, 965 square metres including the galleries. The hall is lit at the sides by a large number of windows, and seven windows occupy the circular end where the orchestra is placed.
The window space is equal to one-fifth of the floor area between the pillars, or one-eighth the area of the whole hall from side-wall to side-wall.
The hall is said to have bad acoustic properties, for, when not full, an echo is heard. This is accounted for partly by the position of the pillars, but chiefly through the bad proportions of the hall, which is too long for its width.
The cost of the building was 300,000 marks. On the ground-floor level, of which a plan is given (Fig. 7), is the main entrance, with vestibule and cloakrooms on either side. A wide corridor divides the vestibule from the hall and its appurtenances. On either side of the hall are rooms for refreshments, supper-rooms, small hall, card-room, and retiring-rooms, and the musicians' rooms are in the circular end behind the orchestra. In the basement are the caretaker's living-rooms, and under the terrace is a skittle-alley. On the first floor (Fig. 8) is a gallery running round the whole of the hall, and from this gallery is approached the billiard-room, reading-room, and library. The smaller hall has a gallery at each end.
Above - A Google StreetView Image of the former Hotel Cecil, Strand, London, which this Chapter refers to - Click to Interact
Nearly all the large hotels erected in London in the last 20 years have been provided with an assembly-room suitable for all classes of entertainment, such as concerts, dances, banquets, and private theatricals. It is therefore only natural to find that the largest hotel in London, which is now approaching completion, should have one of the largest assembly-rooms of any in a building of this class. I refer to the Hotel Cecil on the Embankment, the building whose history is well known to every Londoner as being one of the many schemes in connection with the famous Jabez Balfour companies.
Messrs. Perry and Reed, the architects of this building, are rapidly completing the work which they have from the commencement carried forward with such energy and spirit.
The demand for an assembly-room in large hotels springs from the fact that the number of persons assembled is so great that they seek for amusement on the premises. The facility afforded for banquets, dances, bazaars, &c., in a roomy hall attached to this large hotel are very great, as there is every accommodation given for the reception of guests, and for the taking up and putting down of the visitors arriving in their carriages from outside. These facilities cannot exist in halls situated in smaller premises, as the amount of apace cannot be afforded for suites of rooms round the assembly hall, and there is not the same provision of space for outside traffic as there is in the case now before us.
It is well known that the Hotel Cecil in reality consists of three large blocks of buildings, the main block facing the Embankment, and two side blocks, inclosing a courtyard, with their ends abutting on to the Strand; or, rather, they will so abut when the houses now facing the Strand have been pulled down. The area already covered with buildings is about two-and-a-half acres, the courtyard is 300ft. long by 80ft. wide, and beneath this surface the three main blocks are connected as one large building.
The north end of the site at the Strand level is 35ft. above the Embankment level, and the concert-hall is situated in the eastern block, with its approaches and exits on this latter level.
The southern block, which is by far the loftiest, contains all the principal public rooms, the chief kitchen, and offices for the management, and the best suites of rooms. The western block, which is the smallest, has the smaller dining-rooms and bachelors' quarters. The eastern block, about the same area as the southern, has large family suites of rooms, arranged separately in pavilions, and has below the two great concert, or banqueting, halls, each with their own receiving, retiring, and smoking-rooms, which are so planned that they can be used together for any great function.
These rooms can be approached from the courtyard without passing through the hotel, and as they may be occupied by great numbers of people at a time, special exit arrangements have been provided by which the inmates can pass directly on to the low-level roads, and the Embankment without traversing any intervening staircases. Thus special exits are formed, which are on the level with the street, to be used in the event of any alarm. There will be a fourth block, the north block, which will be built after the acquisition of additional property, and will face the Strand.
Great difficulty arose in forming the foundations of this vast building, owing to sand and running water. In the case of the southern block trenches exist which are 35ft. deep and 16ft. wide, filled in with Portland cement concrete, and over the whole site of this block a bed of concrete is laid to a thickness of 6ft., while there is spread over the remainder of the site a layer of concrete 4ft. thick.
Naturally the accommodation of this building is most extensive, for it contains, roughly speaking, about one thousand rooms; but the concert-room is the largest room in the building, measuring 95ft. long by 55ft. wide, and it will accommodate as many as one thousand guests at a banquet. At one end is a gallery, or platform, with a separate entrance for the musicians, at the other is a small gallery for the accommodation of spectators who may wish to be the onlookers at either a ball or a dinner.
Although the plan accompanying this article does not show the entire surroundings of this hall, the smaller hall being omitted, it will be seen that there is a large retaining room on one side, in addition to which there are large lounges, &c., and every accommodation necessary in connection with concert halls and assembly rooms.
One of the special advantages in this hall for public assemblies of a fashionable kind where many of the guests arrive in carriages, is that the approach from the Embankment level to the concert-hall is by a special road running under the court, which road is entirely covered over. The carriageway is said to accommodate one hundred and fifty vehicles, all of which can be under the arches sheltered from wind and weather, and remain there to be called at any minute. By this arrangement, ladies and gentlemen arriving at an assembly held at these rooms will be able to alight under cover, without in any way being exposed to the damp, mud, and night air of London.
The majority of the rooms in the southern block are reception-rows, dining-rooms, and drawing-rooms, all public rooms, and guests occupying these rooms would enter the southern wing and descend by a wide staircase in the eastern wing to the Embankment level, and thus approach the concert-hall without traversing the courtyard; they could also reach the hall from the upper level by means of the hotel corridors and main concert-room entrance staircase.
The eastern and western blocks from the courtyard upward are occupied by private rooms, and by the usual rooms of a hotel, all of which are in addition to the large hall which forms the subject of this paper.
Images begin again at Fig 1
The subject of this chapter is the description of two classes of buildings erected for one purpose, and most frequently, especially in London, adapted for concert-halls and places of varied entertainment. I refer to the vestry hall, as distinct from the town hall, and the swimming-bath.
The vestry hall class is represented by the Penge Vestry
Hall, of which Mr. Elphinstone is the architect, and the swimming-bath
Taking first the Penge Vestry Hall, we find by the plans we have a small hall measuring some 57ft. by 27ft. wide, or a length of nearly twice the width, and this room is connected with the rooms of the vestry officials, the main entrance to the hall being the same as that to the offices. There is, however, a separate entrance to the hall, as well as an additional exit.
Formerly there was only a platform in the room; but as a stage play license was required, the back wall was pierced and formed into a proscenium wall, and a regular stage was erected beyond suitable for dramatic performances, and complying with the regulations of the L.C.C. in detail.
The sections, Figs. 2, 3, 4, show how this alteration was carried out, and how the required height of twice the proscenium opening was obtained by carrying the roof of the stage above the roof of the hall.
There is an asbestos fireproof curtain dividing the stage from the hall, and this is one of the very few instances in London where an assembly-hall has been fitted with such a curtain.
When these premises are used at night the vestry offices, Fig. 1, are vacated and used as retiring, tea, or cloak-rooms, as may be required by those using the hall. The ante-room at the side of the hall affords a space for serving light refreshments when dances are held.
This example of a small vestry hall must not be regarded in the same light or compared with the large town halls which exist both at home and abroad. Their arrangements are very different, and far more important. The plans which we now have are only suitable for a small vestry hall in a country town or suburb. In cases of town halls, it will be seen, when we come to discuss that part of our subject, that it is essential to separate the part given up to public entertainment from the part used by the town officials.
The swimming-bath lends itself most readily as a place for concerts and assemblies. The very shape of the room is, as a rule, a good one; but the entrances and exits are usually very bad indeed. When one considers that for half the year a building erected for a swimming-bath lies idle, and when one sees how easily it can be converted into a public hall, where due consideration is given to that fact in the original designs, then one wonders how it is that swimming-baths are built with such bad entrances and exits.
Where a bath can be altered or is built originally so as to meet the requirements of the Theatres Committee of the L.C.C., if it has a music license, the building earns a revenue by sub-letting for entertainments during the winter months.
The subject of the illustrations Figs. 5 and 6, as I have said, is the Excelsior Swimming Baths, Bethnal Green, which Mr. Walter Emden, has very cleverly altered so as to be a hall of entertainment, which may well be held up as an example to many other places of public resort in London when one looks at the number and the position of the exits the architect has provided in the building alike to ground floor and gallery.
The plan shows the ground floor of the big bath - one half as a swimming-bath, and one half how it appears when the tank is floored over, and the hall seated as a public assembly-room. It will be noticed that all the wooden partitions forming the dressing-boxes of the bath are removed when it becomes a hall, and this is done by an ingenious contrivance of hinges and thumbscrews.
The smaller swimming-bath is not used as a concert-room, but the passage into which it leads affords an additional and wide exit from the large bath.
These two examples give a very good idea of the adaptability and convertibility of buildings erected for one purpose being used for another under peculiar circumstances. In the first instance the building is used for its legitimate purposes in the daytime, but, by the skill of its architect, it has been converted and changed in its arrangements so as to be suitable at night for balls, concerts, and dramatic entertainments.
In the second case, the original intent of the building was for a swimming-bath for summer use; but after Mr. Emden's alterations were made, the proprietors were furnished with a hall most admirably adapted for such entertainments as delight the inhabitants of the district.
It is not always a safe or wise thing to try and change or convert a building into a place of public resort; too frequently the result is far from satisfactory - is, indeed, very bad and even dangerous.
It is also often foolish to use a building for two purposes, as the one usage may add to the danger of the other. By this I mean that what is carried on in the building in the daytime may leave a risk of an outbreak of fire at night when the public are assembled; or the business of the day may obstruct the exits and passages at night. It is only, therefore, a very limited number of buildings of this class which may with safety be employed at night for entertainments.
But of this limited number much more could be made than at present is the case, if the architects, when designing their buildings, would consider the importance of their clients letting them out for assemblies of various kinds, and the exits, staircases, &c., then needed to meet the requirements of the regulations. Whatever a hall is originally built for, good exits are always a great addition to its value and usefulness.
There is a tendency to have all rooms, or halls, where music and dancing takes place, under the control of the licensing body, and when the license is applied for, the applicant finds himself presented with a list of structural alterations, which must be carried out before he can obtain a certificate of the Council's architect. The applicant in many cases looks upon this as a hardship; he is not so much to blame as the architect who originally and foolishly designed his building without looking ahead into the future.
We have seen two examples of how alterations can be made so as to get a satisfactory result; but there are exceptional cases, and architects should not satisfy themselves with the idea that when a license is needed then alterations can be made.
This is only putting his client to unnecessary expense, when the original outlay would give all that may be required. I have known very many people requiring licenses for all sorts of buildings, such as chapels, school-rooms, dancing academies, swimming-baths, halls, institutes, drill-sheds, club-rooms, &c., and these applicants have been refused because of the bad planning of their building.
Images begin again at Fig 1
The finest concert-hall in the centre of London is the Queen's Hall, a plan of which (Fig. 1) I produce here, having taken it from one that was published some few years back. I have had the advantage of going over this hall very many times. Mr. C. J. Phipps, F.S.A., one of the architects engaged on this building, who was responsible for the planning, but not for the architecture, has shown great knowledge of the requirements of the public, and has planned a concert-room of which any city in the world would be proud. It is not my province either to criticise or comment upon the architecture.
The concert-hall was designed to accommodate some three thousand persons, the chief division of which (stalls) was placed below the street level on account of questions of light and air. The first balcony is on the street level, approached from a large vestibule. The second balcony is above the street, and, like the first, entirely surrounded by a wide corridor. The exits are very numerous, as the admirable position and site allow of free access into the street by a number of extra staircases up from the area level and down from the gallery, in addition to the grand staircase and vestibule. Special provision is made for the 500 occupants of the orchestra, from which there is an exit on either side below the organ gallery. The minor hall has its separate approaches and exits.
It is claimed that the lines of the internal design were reversed from those usually adopted, and a parallelogram with a curved end substituted for the horseshoe form. The orchestra sides are convex, the idea, it is said, being borrowed from the shape of certain wind instruments. The walls of the convex are lined with wood on battens, with coarse canvas strained over the wooden lining to check vibrations. There are no columns in the hall to obstruct sound-waves or divert them from their true course. What the Queen's Hall is, is so well known that it is not needful to speak further of it.
is a small concert-hall at St. Leonard's-on-Sea (Fig. 2) which is particularly
good, in my opinion, as a provincial hall of entertainment. It is arranged
with a stage at one end, and an orchestra at the other. When concerts
are given, the audience are seated facing the orchestra, and seats are
placed on the stage, which then becomes a kind of gallery of raised
seats above the floor level. When stage plays are performed, the chairs
are turned round facing the stage, and the public occupy the raised
orchestra, from whence a capital view of the stage is obtained. I have
frequently wondered why this form of plan has not been more often copied
or adapted for small
There are many noted concert-halls abroad, one of the most famous of which is to be found at Leipzic, erected in 1882-1884 from the designs of the architects Gropius and Schmieder, who, in a competition of 25 competitors, were the winners of the prize. The conditions published in 1880 stipulated that there should be 1,700 seats in the large concert-hall, and room in the orchestra for 500 performers, musicians, and singers.
I give two plans (Figs. 3 and 4) and a section (Fig. 5) of this building.
The small concert-room contains 793 seats, of which 487 are on the area level, and 306 in the gallery.
The dimensions of the large concert-hall are 42.5 metres long by 19 metres wide, and 14.6 metres high. There are 1,178 seats on the area floor; 449 persons are accommodated in 37 boxes on the first tier, and 118 on the second tier, making a total of 1,745 seats, each measuring 75 centimetres deep by 75 centimetres wide.
As the hall is used for various purposes besides concerts, the seats are not fixed, but can be moved and stored away in a space built specially for the purpose . So that the hall may be used for functions during the daytime, abundant daylight is obtained from windows at the sides and at the top. The seating accommodation in the orchestra is for 500, as required by the terms of the competition.
The building is isolated, and has entrances on all sides. The main entrances, which are screened by external lobbies, lead to a vast crush-room extending under the entire space occupied by the concert-hall above on the first floor. In this crush-room are several "hats and coats" counters, and there are exits therefrom and in every direction. Wide staircases, right and left, lead to the area floor of the concert-hall above, while separate staircases ascend to the two tiers of boxes, and other distinct staircases approach to the smaller hall and orchestra. There are reading-room, library, bureau, and housekeeper's rooms on the ground floor.
On the first floor is a large foyer at one end of the great hall, and a small concert-room at the other; retiring-rooms for soloists and musicians' rooms complete the arrangements. The building is heated and ventilated in such a manner that the temperature of the large hall, small hall, and foyer can each be raised or lowered separately to any given degree. The fresh air is forced in, after being warmed, at the rate of 20 cubic metres per head per hour. An 8H.P. gas-engine is employed to do this. The foul air is extracted by means of large ducts, and is discharged in huge chimneys in the upper part of the roof.
A diagram is given (Fig. 6) of the old Concert Hall at Leipzig. This was a large wooden box, within a building, erected upon the ceiling of the warehouse below, beneath which again were store-rooms. The main floors were carried by ash-posts, and the construction of the hall was entirely of varnished wood partitions with wooden linings rounded off so as to leave no angles at floor and ceiling. Herr Miiller, in describing this hall, speaks of an empty space beneath the concert-room floor, from which it may be assumed that the cloth warehouse was not used, and that a reverberative space was thus left beneath the hall.
In many of the orchestras of theatres recently erected on the Continent, the wooden floor is laid over an empty space formed by an inverted tunnel - for example, this is the case in the Amsterdam New Municipal Theatre; obviously the object of this hollow space is to increase resonance in the same way as was done by accident at the old Gewand Haus.
Herr Muller likens this concert-hall to a violin - the inner roof or ceiling, and partitions, represented, according to him, the strings and bridge; the ceiling of the cloth floor, with its transverse beams, formed the belly; the upright story-posts the sound-posts and bass-bar, and the lower floor the back of the violin. All the parts of the room, therefore, were free to vibrate, no rigid floors or walls being in connection with the actual concert-room anywhere; it is no doubt true that the sides, roof and floor, of such a room would reinforce the sound of voices or musical instruments in somewhat the same way that the body of a violin reinforces the sound of the strings.
The satisfactory effect of the room acoustically was notorious, and rests on abundant testimony; its construction and position are probably mainly accountable for this.
However perfect such a structure may be acoustically, its form of construction could not be accepted as satisfactory from the point of view of safety, for the inflammability of such a building would be highly dangerous to the lives of any assembly of people.
Images begin again at Fig 1
In planning a concert-hall architects too frequently forget that very large numbers of people are seated in the choir and orchestra, and that these people quite as much as the audience require to have safe entrances and exits. Those who know the majority of the London concert-halls are well aware of the want of provision for those who occupy seats in this part of the house. Frequently, too, it must be remembered, the orchestral seats are occupied by the public themselves at meetings and at concerts where no choir is engaged, so the exits from this part of the house should be looked upon as public exits quite as much as any other exits are.
The entrance to a large concert-hall should be so planned as to admit vast numbers of people without unduly crushing. To the booked parts of the hall, where people arrive in carriages, as much space as possible should be allowed for the audience to alight from their carriages under cover. In close proximity to the vestibule should be the cloak-room accommodation, with ample room for the hanging up of the hats and coats. In this respect the last concert-hall erected in London is sadly wanting. With regard to barriers checking the inrush of people past the pay-box, far greater attention should be given to this detail in buildings of this class than is done at present. It is quite as necessary that people should enter a concert-hall without the risk of personal injury by crushing as it is for them to file past the pay-box of a theatre in an orderly manner. This is a point which is often too lightly treated by even the expert designers of theatres, and is indeed totally ignored by the architects who build concert-halls. The consequence is that we too frequently find that the pay-box, an after-thought, is but like a wooden sentry-box placed in the passage, diminishing its width and the value of the exit. The barriers, too, are movable like wooden hurdles, easily overturned and forming an impediment and obstruction of the greatest danger to an outrushing crowd.
Of late years the London County Council have devoted much attention to this matter; but it is impossible, even with the most ingenious contrivance of collapsible barriers, to obtain the same result and the same good and safe entrance which should exist in the original building. In my papers on Theatres, illustrated in the BUILDING NEWS, Oct. 21, 1892, I showed, both by diagram and description, how a crowd should be led, one by one, past the pay-box, through a narrow entrance, yet have the full available width of the passage for exit without any obstruction. This is done by leading off a narrow passage from the wide passage, which, after passing the pay-box, again enters the main passage. The narrow passage is, of course, not used at all for exit. I know nowhere where this system has been adopted in a concert-hall, although the necessities are as great as in a theatre.
Where concert-halls are built with tiers or galleries, each tier should have its separate entrance and its separate exit. The width of these should be in no case less than 4ft. 6in. This dimension applies equally to passages, doorways, and staircases.
One word as to construction. Although there is presumably not the same danger from fire in a concert-room as in a theatre, owing to the absence of the stage and the scenery, yet from recent cases of fires in public buildings which have occurred even during this year we learn that many conflagrations originate in the auditorium, and this is undoubtedly due to smoking and the smouldering of tobacco and matches thrown down on the wooden floor, probably falling between the open joints of the floorboards into the space beneath. It may be said it is only in music-halls, not in concert-halls, that smoking takes place; but my answer to that is that a good many smoking concerts are given annually in concert-halls, and it is for this reason that the auditorium of a concert-room should be constructed of fireproof materials, with tiers constructed of concrete, as in a theatre.
The absence of columns supporting the galleries, and the adoption of the cantilever system, is as great an advantage in a concert-room, perhaps even greater than in a theatre, as there is then no obstruction either to the sound-wave or to the sight.
The Liederhalle (Figs. 1 and 2), in Stuttgart, is a building of unusual length, which is due to the fact that it has been prolonged and added to since it was first erected in 1863. Then it consisted simply of assembly-rooms, with a hall on the upper floor. In 1874 was added the large hall and adjuncts, the full width of the old building. Two staircases lead from the hall at the end of the old portion of the premises to the galleries above. At the opposite end of the hall is a movable orchestral platform, which can be converted into a stage for occasional theatrical performances. The small hall in the front of the building, has also a stage.
The concert hall at Frankfort (Figs. 3 and 4), designed by the architect Mr. H. Burnitz for the Dramatic Society, is upon a site of peculiar and unsatisfactory outline, as the building is cut in two by a street with the large concert-hall on one side and the small music-room on the other. In order to make a connection between these rooms a foyer was built in the form of a bridge across the street, which at the same time served as the covered carriage porch to the main entrance below, which was purposely placed at this point.
The building on the south side consists of the great hall and grand staircase and restaurant; that on the north side consists of the small hall and manager's rooms. The large hall measures 42.69 metres long by 16.22 metres wide and 13.95 metres high. The seating accommodation is for 900 persons, and there is standing room for 450 more. There is a movable orchestra for 50 to 60 performers and seats for a choir of 200. The small hall, specially built for chamber music, is 15.4 metres long by 10.24 metres wide, and on account of its position, being built in on all sides, it obtains its light from the roof. It is said to accommodate 415 persons (325 seated and 90 standing), while 200 more can be got into the side gallery; but, judging from the plan, one would gather that these numbers could not be admitted without unduly crowding the room beyond its "safe" capacity. The foyer connecting the two buildings measures 15.4 metres by 13.1 metres, and is used as a refreshment-room.
The Musical Union (Fig. 5) in Vienna was opened in January, 1870. The building was erected from drawings by the architect, Baron Hansen, and it contains two large halls, of which the greater, or concert-hall, has a seating capacity of 2,000, with an orchestra capable of holding 500 musicians and singers, at the rear of which is placed the great organ. The smaller of the two halls was constructed to meet the requirements of smaller concerts, quartettes, and chamber music. As the concerts are mostly held in the day-time, a good supply of daylight has been provided.
The plan which I produce shows the first-floor level upon which the concert-rooms are situated, the ground floor being occupied by the approaches, cloakrooms, and vestibules, which are on an extensive scale. Right through the centre of the building is a carriageway, from which people can alight under cover a the foot of staircases, which lead therefrom directly into the hall above. From the front vestibule two wide staircases, to the right and left, are approached (Fig. 5) delivering at the back of the hall. The two small circular staircases lead down to the covered carriage-way already mentioned, while the remaining staircases afford extra means of egress.
The large hall is 13.9 metres wide by 31.92 long. At a height of 1.11 metres there is a raised platform running round the room. This platform is only 2.2 metres wide, above which, at a height of 5.98 metres, is a gallery of the same width fitted with " tip-up " seats. There is another tier over this part. The height of the hall is 17.7 metres, and daylight is obtained from all four sides by means of 48 windows.
The smaller hall is 10.42 metres wide, and has an arched ceiling 10.4 metres in height at the sides, measuring 11.4 metres high in the middle. There is one gallery in the hall, 1.25 metres in width. A peculiar feature in both these halls is that the Royal boxes are arranged on the sides and not in the centre at the end, as is more often the case in public buildings. In order that the revenue of the building should be as large as possible, a part of the ground floor is occupied with shops, dwelling-rooms, and restaurant; while on the top stories are rooms let off for music-teaching rooms and practice rooms in connection with a conservatoire.
The Alpine resort of Ischl is yearly filled by numerous visitors who frequent the place for pleasure and renewal of health. In order to meet the demands of the former, the town erected in 1872-1875 a concert-hall as shown in Fig. 6, and built it in a splendid situation surrounded by a park. In the plan, it will be seen the orchestra is placed at the side, not at the end, as one is accustomed to find it; the reason is, that the building is not solely used for concerts, but dances and other entertainments are held therein as well. The large ladies' saloon, the reading-room, and dining-rooms all point to it being a place of entertainment meeting all demands being a pleasure resort.
A covered drive is placed before the vestibule, which is on the south, with porter's box and pay-place on one side, and cloak-rooms on the other.
To the east and west are terraces, special features of the building, being greatly in request for people "lounging" in the open air on a summer day. In the basement one finds the administrative offices, guest-rooms, and musicians' room in direct communication, by means of a special staircase, with the orchestra.
The building extends lengthways north and south, and on one side of it is a large palm-house, extending over an area of 2,750 square metres. The necessary forcing houses for the plants are situated in another part of the grounds, and connected with the palm-house by a covered way.
The building itself occupies an area of 1,028 square metres, while the concert hall measures 48.18 metres long by 22.75 metres wide, and 28 metres high. It is surrounded on two sides by a corridor 2.8 metres wide, the windows from which open on to the palm-house on the one side and a terrace on the other.
The floor of the palm-house is 2.5 metres below that of the hall, so that from nearly all points of the hall the plants can be seen, creating a pleasing and novel effect.
The rooms which surround the great hall are carried up two stories, and the basement is occupied by the offices, kitchens, cellars, billiard-rooms, and refreshment department. At one end of the building is a large dining-room.
Images begin again at Fig 1
There is a concert-hall in Aaran (Figs. 1 and 2) which was erected in 1882-1883 by Mr. Agliser, of Zurich. It consists of two halls side by side, the larger of which has a seating capacity for 800 people, with an orchestra platform at one end. The smaller hall will accommodate 400 persons, and is provided with a small stage for theatricals. Over the small hall on the first floor are practice-rooms, while in other parts of the building are the necessary cloak-rooms and refreshment-rooms.
The two halls together have a cubical contents of 11,600 cubic metres, giving 9.75 cubic metres per person. A notable feature in the design is a covered carriage way in front, so that people may alight protected from the weather.
In Figs. 3 and 4 are represented a concert-hall at Basle; a hall which is in direct connection with the town casino, and was built in 1871-1873. The concert-room is constructed to accommodate 1,500 people - 1,000 on the floor level, and 500 in the gallery.
The orchestra is built for 50 performers, but it can be enlarged when a choir is needed. This hall is designed on strict rules of proportion, being 36 metres long by 21 metres wide, and 15 metres high ; each of these dimensions is a multiple of three. The height and width added together are equal to the length, therefore the width deducted from the length equals the height, and the height from the length equals the width.
This is one of the best-proportioned halls on the Continent, and it was erected from plans by the architect, Mr. Stehlin Burckhardt. There is a gallery of two rows of seats on either side of the hall, while at the back the number of rows is increased to five. A large foyer or saloon is placed on the gallery level over the covered carriageway.
Concert-halls vary greatly in their dimensions and holding capacity. There is no difficulty in providing a building where 1,500 to 2,500 can hear and see with ease; but when a larger number than this has to be accommodated in a hall, so that they may be able to listen without difficulty to the performance, then many difficulties arise which have to be overcome before a satisfactory concert hall is provided.
There are, of course, many buildings where a very large audience can be seated, notably the Albert Hall; but there are-few of such vast proportions which are as satisfactory in the many respects which make this hall so notorious throughout the world.
The Fest Halle at Karlsruhe (Fig. 5) is one of the halls of the larger class, as it seats 5,000 persons. It was built in 1875-1876 by the architect, J. Durin. This huge building stands isolated in a large park, so that ample provision for entrances and exits was made without any difficulty. There are nine separate entrances and six staircases, distributed along the sides and at the rounded end. The building is of sandstone and brick, with roof and gallery of wood. There is no doubt, though the building was erected ostensibly for holding musical performances, that it is one more adapted for the purpose of a fete building.
In Fig. 6 is given the plan of one of the smaller concert-halls which was built in 1869 at Dresden by Hugo Strung.
The hall is in the rear of the building on the level of the ground. It measures 25.5 metres long by 18.5 metres wide, and 11 metres high, with a gallery on three sides and orchestra one end.
Although built for a concert-hall, it was soon converted into a variety hall under the name of the Victoria Saloon, the orchestra was removed, and a stage added.
In Cologne (Fig. 7) is a concert-hall of older date than those which I have been describing, and, like the old Gewand Haus of Leipsic, it is largely constructed of wood. It has three sides facing the streets.
The hall is 53 metres long by 21.5 metres wide, and 15 metres to the apex of the roof, the form of which will be seen in the section (Fig. 8). The height to the springing of the ceiling is 11 metres. The seating capacity is 2,500. A gallery surrounds the hall to a depth of 8.25 metres. It is stated that at concerts given in this room kettle-drums, cymbals, and such-like instruments the sound from which is obtained by beating, are generally omitted, and the probable reason for this omission is that there is so much wood in the construction of the hall, and therefore great resonance. There is room in the orchestra for 76 musicians and 266 singers; but on occasions the orchestra is enlarged to allow of 160 members and 600 voices.
So far, I have been speaking of the concert-hall erected solely for orchestra and choir for the performance of concerts on a large scale; in most of the examples we have seen that, in addition to the large hall, a small one is generally added for the purpose of chamber music, soloists, and pianoforte recitals.
There are many such rooms, however, existing independent of large establishments, and of late it has become the fashion for pianoforte manufacturers to add to their showrooms a saloon in which professionals may give recitals and concerts, and so bringing the name of the manufacturer, and the merits of his instruments, before the public. Some of these rooms are most perfectly appointed; and, for example, for a music chamber, it would be hard to find a more charming or complete room than the Salle Erard, the merits of which, however, the authorities at Spring-gardens have failed to discover, as they have not honoured it by including it in their list of licensed places.
London is not well provided either with concert-halls of the smaller or larger class; but from the fact that one of the best halls of the former kind has been converted into a restaurant, there is no doubt that the supply is equal to the demand. We are not the music-loving people that our German cousins are, and the consequence is that until the Queen's Hall was erected, with the one exception of the Albert Hall (which we owe to the efforts of a German prince), London did not contain a large concert-hall worthy of such a city.
The makeshifts we have to put up with by the adoption of buildings of all sorts and conditions for musical recitals are neither fair to the performers nor to the audience, for the acoustic qualities of the room are not, as a rule, suitable for the voice or the instrument, and the entrances, exits, fire-resisting and extinguishing appliances are not sufficient for the safety of the public.
I have seen rooms - schoolrooms - built on plan in the shape of a carpenter's square, with the platform placed in the angle, so that no portion of the audience could see the full face of the performer, and the singer had either to turn his back upon one-half of the people while singing to the other half, or else sing to the wall opposite.
I have seen rooms employed for public entertainment where kitchens, and cellars even, had to be used for retiring-rooms for the performers; and this brings me to notice a very oft-forgotten requirement in buildings of this class. It is not only in theatres, as Mr. Wilson Barrett pointed out lately when addressing the Actors' Association, that the performers have to put up with all manner of inconveniences, because of the inadequacy of the dressing-room accommodation; but I wish to draw the attention of my readers that it is also in concert-halls that architects forget the artists. An ill-conceived, ill-ventilated, draughty, damp, or cold waiting-room frequently is all that is supplied in which the performer has to wait his turn on the platform. Surely the performers require as much care as the audience; their lives are as valuable - perhaps more so.
I have frequently heard artists speak of the neglect shown to them in planning places public entertainment, and a proposal lately made by an eminent actor that the people who have always to occupy the building, daily and nightly, should have some voice in the matter, and be allowed by the building owners to consult with the architects, appears to me an excellent one, as it is impossible for an architect to understand the requirements of the performer as well as the performer does himself.
Images begin again at Fig 1
The King's Building at Stuttgard, which is situated opposite the castle in Konigsstrasse, was originally intended by King William to be erected as a theatre. This project, however, was subsequently abandoned, and in the place of the theatre a concert-hall was erected, of which Figs. 1 and 2 give the ground and first-floor plans.
In order that the building might bring in a larger revenue than could be obtained by simply erecting and sub-letting a concert-hall, the hall has been placed on the first floor, and the entire space of the ground floor is laid out for shops with large cafe and bourse.
There is a colonnade extending the whole length of the building facing Konigsstrasse, and some of the shops are situated in this colonnade; the café, restaurant, &c., have also entrances therefrom.
In the centre of the building is a short passage with an octagonal hall; this leads at right angles to another passage, parallel with the colonnade, extending the whole length of the building, and here, in the form of an arcade, are shops on either side; this passage, or arcade, is roofed in with glass the entire length.
The entrances to the concert-hall are at both both ends of the building, where vestibules lead to the main staircases; there are other side entrances and staircases at the back of the cafe and bourse. The main front entrance and grand staircase lead to the large entrance-hall at the top of two flights of stairs, and from the hall the foyer and crush-room is entered. Beyond this is the concert-hall. The entrance in the rear is the one used by Royalty; the staircase there leads directly into a suite of three rooms, the larger of which is called the king's saloon.
These are in the rear of the orchestra and platform, to the right of which is situated the king's private box, from which box there is direct communication with the king's saloon. The large hall is provided with a gallery on three sides. As the entrances for the public are on the south side, the court entrance on the north, and the shops are on the east and west, or long sides of the building, the people who frequent the concert-hall in no way interfere with those who use the cafe, shops, &c. In addition to the shops, there are also fiats situated over the narrow back buildings, so that every inch of this vast building is employed to bring in as much as possible to the exchequer. The concert-hall is lighted from side windows, which overlook on one side a balcony formed by the roof of the colonnade, and on the other the glass roof of the arcade. The circular orchestra and staircases are provided with light from above.
I use this hall to illustrate how a place of entertainment may be placed on the first floor over a space used entirely for commercial and other purposes, whereby a large income is obtained, without interfering in any way with the approaches and exits to the concert hall. It is well known that under the existing rules such a building could not be erected in London, for although the site is isolated, and exits can be obtained on all sides, and the concert-hall can be separated from the shops by fireproof flooring, yet the requirements of the London County Council do not permit the erection of a concert-hall over or under premises used for other purposes. It is not even permitted to place a music-room over a pianoforte showroom. The illustrations given in Figs. 1 and 2 show that these matters are looked upon in a very different light in other countries.
In Figs. 3 and 4 is illustrated a concert-hall in Baden, which was built in 1872-75 by Mr. Robert Moser, the architect. The building stands on a plateau surrounded by a large park, with splendid views of the surrounding country. The concert-hall is nearly 27 metres long, 15 wide, and 13.5 metres high. The principal entrance is on one side, but there are entrances from all four sides. Retiring-rooms, cloak-rooms, and refreshment-rooms complete the ground floor. On the first floor are terraces over the entrances and some of the ground-floor rooms, those on the right being roofed over as pavilions. These terraces were formed in order that a position commanding the view of the park might be obtained where people could hear the music from within and yet be seated in the open air.
Fig. 5 is a concert-hall in the Stadtgarten of Vienna, the ground for which was given to the public by the Emperor in 1860, on condition that a garden should be provided for the residents of Vienna. The cost of the park was 192,000 marks. It is laid out in the form of ornamental gardens, containing a large pond or lake, and a drinking well embellished by a beautiful female marble figure by the sculptor, Hans Goner. The park also contains a memorial of Schubert, and a colossal figure of Dr. Schlinka; but its greatest ornament was not added till 1865-67, when the concert-hall and buildings were erected. Fig. .5 shows the ground-plan of this building. The area of the room is 360 square metres. In the centre of one of the longer sides of the concert-hall or fete-room is a semicircular orchestra. On the right-hand is a large café, with a kitchen in the rear, while on the left is a beer-drinking hall. In front of the large hall is an extensive terrace, which can be used for open-air music and promenades in fine weather. In the rear of the orchestra is the entrance and vestibule, with the ladies' and gentlemen's retiring-rooms, and large cloakroom accommodation on either side. It is a peculiar feature of the design that the main entrance is at the back of the orchestra, with the approaches to the hall by a circular corridor behind it. From this corridor are two staircases, one of which leads to the gallery above, where a view is obtained all over the large hall, and the other is used for the service, and from it are approached the manager's rooms and the offices on the first floor, and the servants' rooms in the basement. Exclusive of the terrace, the ground covered by the building measures 1,798 square metres.
Frequently on the Continent one finds these concert-halls and places of entertainment in a public park, the zoological or the botanical gardens. These buildings are not only used by the society to which they belong, but are let out for dances, fetes, concerts, or theatrical entertainments.
In Frankfort there is a concert-hall in the Zoological Gardens, shown in Fig. 6. This building, like the one previously described, has its carriage approach on one side, and a big terrace overlooking the gardens on the other. Another feature is the loggia, which is approached from the concert-hall. The loggia forms a desirable covered space for those who wish to listen, under cover, to the music out-of-doors, thus avoiding any risk from being seated in the open air. In connection with this hall is a smaller one used for chamber music. Fig. 7 gives a plan of hall in the Palm Garden of the same city, the arrangements of which are clearly shown on the drawing.
Kroll's establishment in Berlin, of which Figs. 8 and 9 are plans of the ground and first floor, is situated in the Zoological Gardens at Berlin. It was originally intended for fetes and concerts, but being far from the town, is said not to have proved a success. It was rebuilt after a fire in 1851.
Fig. 8 shows the building as originally erected, with the centre hall as a drinking saloon, with winter gardens on either side. There are also private dining-rooms, with buffet in the rear. Fig. 9 shows the building as it now stands, with a theatre fully equipped with stage, orchestra, dressing-rooms, and all the accessories for theatrical performances on somewhat the same scale as at the Aquarium at Westminster. To the right and the left are exhibition halls, known the one as the Roman Hall, the other as the Knights' Hall. There are several private dining-rooms, and rooms for refreshment and retirement disposed in various parts of the building.
Figs. 10 and 11 illustrate a concert-hall erected for the Industrial Exhibition held in Strasburg' last year. The design is the result of a limited competition held among Strasburg architects. There was a novel condition attached to the competition - namely, that the competitors should name who was to be the builder if their design was accepted.
The architects who were successful were Messrs. Berninger and Krafft, but they were not employed as architects for the whole of the exhibition buildings, Messrs. Kuder and Muller doing the rest of the work.
The large hall shown in Fig. 10 has a superficial area of 800 square metres in extent, while the two small halls occupy a surface of 100 square metres each.
The total cost of the building was 150,000 marks, the principal hall and machinery working out at 20 marks per square metre. The roof of the building is of wood, made of this material for the sake of its acoustic qualities.
As will be seen from the plans, the hall is designed for many purposes; the ground-plan is shown set out with a number of small tables to be used for the audience to be seated, as at a smoking concert, or as at one of the old type of English music-halls which are no longer to be found in London, where tables and chairs filled the entire area of the floor space.
When used as a restaurant the hall is arranged as shown in Fig. 10. At one end is a stage where orchestra and singer may perform, or theatrical plays be enacted. On the first floor is a gallery running all round the hall, with an orchestra at one end, the side gallery being arranged with tables, like the floor-space below. Under the entire building are extensive cellars for storage of wines, beers, &c., as well as provision for cloak-rooms and retiring-rooms.
Sagebiel's establishment in Hamburg consists (Fig. 12) of a series of halls of different sizes, no two of which are alike.
In 1862 the first part of this building was erected in place of one called the Coloseum, the architect of which building was Mr. Buckelbaum.
In 1870 -71 an additional hall, known as the White Hall, was erected; in 1878 the west concert-hall was made as a further addition; in 1883 the marble staircase and theatre-hall were built; and in 1886 the eastern hall and orchestra completed the pile.
All these additions were built under the superintendence of Mr. Martin Haller. The cost of the whole of the buildings was 476,600 marks, and the area covered 4,750 square metres.
Images begin again at Fig 1
In the last four chapters I have given examples of some of the most famous concert-halls of England and the Continent which are used for orchestral and concert music only, and I have endeavoured to show how, under various circumstances, different forms have been adopted at home and abroad with a varied degree of success. It is interesting to notice how these forms and proportions vary in almost every individual case.
The plans which have been used to illustrate the foregoing chapters differ to a degree one can scarcely credit when one considers the laws of acoustics which are said to govern buildings in which music is performed. The acoustical properties we learn from our textbooks are regulated by the proportions and shape of the auditorium, and the materials of which it is constructed, as well as the condition of the atmosphere. Proportions, materials, and ventilation must therefore be considered by the architect in designing a successful concert-hall. It is impossible to put down hard-and-fast rules to be observed under these three heads; and, in fact, every case must be treated on its merits.
Mr. Burrows, in his paper on "Sound in its Relation to Buildings," read before the Royal Institute of British Architects, drew attention to the various forms which the plan of a building should assume to insure acoustical success, and he dwelt upon the fact that the greatest difference of opinion existed among authorities on this important question. First we have the rectangular room, then the circular, the polygonal, the octagonal, the amphitheatrical, the room with curved end and straight sides, followed by the horseshoe type, and, lastly, by the composite type.
We have seen many examples of the rectangular plan in the illustration of the former numbers of these articles. Fig. 1 and 2 represent the Clark Hall at Paisley, which is a plan of this class, and a noted success. Fig. 3, the Cincinnati Music Hall, built by A. F. Oakey, is a building planned as an elongated rectangle, and one of the most celebrated concert halls of America.
Referring to buildings of the composite type, Mr. Burrows spoke of the Grand Theatre, Islington, which was built by Mr. Matcham, and is a house of the provincial class of theatres, where the play can be seen and heard from every part of the house.
I produce in Fig. 4 a plan of the ground-floor level of this house, and in Fig. 5 a plan of the dress-circle level. Although built as a theatre, this auditorium cannot strictly be said to come under the class of concert halls and assembly rooms; but it is an example of a successful building for acoustic purposes, wherein operas as well as plays are performed.
Mr. A. F. Oakey, in his admirable paper on "Acoustics of Architecture," which appeared in a number of Van Nostrand's Magazine in 1881, says that the acoustics of buildings is a science with which intention has nothing to do: each problem must be studied by itself, and every possible contingency must be weighed and settled by some application of the few simple laws we have to depend on. There are many apartments that are agreeable to a speaker and to his audience, while to a musician and his audience they are more or less annoying, and this is easily understood, because the vibrations produced by speaking are not of so prolonged or regular a nature, and consequently cannot cause nearly so much reverberation. But, on the other hand, there is no instance of an apartment where music is heard to advantage, where a speaker does not find himself free from restraint, oppression, or a necessity for exhaustive exertion.
Proportion, of course, governs entirely the success of a hall, and from the above remarks of Mr. Oakey, one must take into consideration the use to which the hall has to be put. In another portion of his paper he speaks of the distance the average speaker can be heard as 90ft. in front of him in the direction in which he speaks, 75ft. at the side, 30ft. behind, and 45ft. in a vertical direction. Taking any three of these figures, we have 90, 30, 45, or 6, 2, 3; 90, 75, 45, or 6, 5, 3; 30, 75, 45, or 2, 5, 3, or always harmonic proportions. These proportions must exist in the first movement or first disturbance of the air, or these distances as given would be incorrect; and if these proportions are true for the first movement, they must be so for every particle of air that passes the sonorous tremor. Supposing, continues the writer, as is often the case, that the speaker faces in the shortest direction; then the resistance in that direction is much less than laterally and vertically, while the force in that direction is greater; consequently, before those persons seated near the side walls have heard anything, those seated between the speaker and the wall opposite have not only heard, but have received an echo from the wall behind them. If we suppose this defective disposition to be changed for a hall of harmonic proportions, in which the speaker delivers his voice, as he should, in the length, we will be much better off, inasmuch as the sounds will be appreciated at all points with the same intensity; but we still have to deal more or less with that opposite wall and its echoes.
Not only the proportions of the plan must be considered, but the proportions of the section. Fig. 6, which is taken from Mr. Gosset's work on planning theatres, gives a diagram of a speaker on the stage, and the dotted lines show the direction of the voice. In this section it will be seen that the line of the area floor, and the lines of the galleries above, are all set out on the Scott Russell isacoustic curve, so that the sound-wave passes to the back, without interruption from the bodies or clothing of those seated in the front rows. Mr. Oakey says there are many difficulties which beset us, including the absorbing surface - an audience present with their clothing. It is not because you are at a greater distance, in your back seat, from what is going on, that you cannot hear well: it is because there is a quantity of material in dresses, coats, bonnets, &c., between you and the performance, and because the sound is rising with the exhalations of all these people, until it passes far above your head, as you sit on a dead level with your nostrils presented to the entertainment in the vain attempt to see, if you cannot hear. There is no disadvantage to a listener in being at the farthest end of an apartment, if only he has nothing but the air, and pure air, between his ears and what he listens to. Mr. Oakey says between his ears, because that average height must determine the difference between the level of his seat and that of his neighbours in front. In other words, there should be not less than 6in., and, if possible, 9in. difference in the levels of the seats, so that they may rise in a gradual line from the first to the last. The diagram, Fig. 6, fully illustrates the meaning of these remarks.
The Free Trade Hall, Manchester, to which I have already referred as an example of a successful acoustic building, is proportioned on the figures 5, 3, 2, the dimensions being 130ft. long, by 78ft. wide, and 52ft. high. The area floor rises from the platform to the back wall, which is a flat curve. In America, the Boston Music Hall is said to be a good example of Mr. George Snell's work in that city; this hall is worked out on harmonic proportions. The dimensions for the Cincinnati Music Hall are based upon the figures 5, 3, 2, being 200ft. long, 120ft. wide, and 80ft. long (see Fig. 3).
Many of my notes on this subject, which appeared in the fifth article on "Theatres" in the Building News of August 19, 1892, are, of course, applicable to the subject now under discussion, although written in special connection with theatre buildings, and I do not propose to traverse the ground a second time. In that article appeared a composite plan of Wagner Theatre at Bayreuth, as well as a semicircular project by Messrs. Davioud and Bourdais, the section of which, however, is reproduced in this chapter, being necessary to explain some of the text.
With regard to the materials used to insure acoustical success at one time, all authorities agreed that wood was the only article to be relied upon; but of late years authorities have differed even on this point. We are all aware of the success Messrs. Perry and Reed attained when they erected the first fireproof music-hall in London. This example has been copied in many instances, and perhaps the greatest success of all is the Queen's Hall, Langham-place.
Concrete has been found to have a great amount of resonance, doubtless on account of the interstices in its formation. Mr. Perry's instance of a concrete house built by him on the coast, where the sound of a gale blowing would, as he expressed it, make the house hum, is an example of the resonance of concrete. Hard plaster surfaces are not consistent with perfection in acoustics. I have already mentioned the method used by Mr. Knightley for lining the walls at the Queen's Hall, Langham-place, as being highly satisfactory.
The form of the ceiling is also a matter of much importance, to which architect's should give great attention. Mr. Statham claims that a flat, or nearly flat, ceiling is the best form for a music-hall; others, as Mr. Burrows points out, insist on a curved form for a ceiling, while others again are content with an ordinary flat curve or concave, which has proved a success at Cincinnati Music-hall (Fig. 3).
Ventilation enters largely into the question of the perfection of a concert-room, the air should be kept pure, and the direction of the ventilation should be from the performer to the audience. A dense or foul atmosphere is fatal to success.
Images begin again at Fig 1
Having dwelt upon what is necessary to make a concert-hall successful as a place in which to see and hear, I must not leave this part of my subject without referring to what is necessary to make it a safe building for the accommodation of the public.
Within the last few weeks there has been published a paper by Mr. A. H. Young, of Edinburgh, in which he has put forward what he terms his solution of what is necessary to attain this important and much-desired end. He has adapted a system for a theatre, but as he points out that the same is applicable to a concert-hall, I take the opportunity of referring to his remarks, and producing some diagrams from his pamphlet.
Mr. Young's scheme consists in creating a series of outside and open-air balconies on each level of the auditorium, running the entire length of the same, with exit-doors leading directly from the audience on to the balconies. The ground is reached by a series of staircases leading from the balconies to the ground.
One would gather from the explanation of this "system," as Mr. Young terms it, that he is under the impression that the plan has never been adopted before; but some twelve years or more ago, Mr. Baes built the Flemish Theatre, Brussels, and in Figs. 3 and 4 I reproduce the plans, showing how he treated the external staircases in his building.
In both examples external staircases are made to do service for exits; in both examples these staircases are approached from each level, and discharge in an open balcony, and eventually reach the ground. The system, no doubt, is an excellent one, provided one could be sure the public would avail themselves of these extra exits; but from some years' experience, I am aware that it is quite the exception for the public to go out by any other way than that by which they enter. It is almost an impossibility to make a crowd go out peacably by any other than the entrance-doors, and in a case of panic the difficulties would be multiplied tenfold, and extra exits be of no avail. Mr. Baes argues that the public would become familiar with the external balconies and staircases by using the balconies in summer for promenades. With use and familiarity the value of the scheme would doubtless be greatly augmented.
The greatest safeguard against losing the value of exits is making them all entrances as well as exits. It prevents them being blocked, obstructed, or locked, and it acquaints the audience of their very existence.
The superiority of Mr. Baes' plan over that of Mr. Paterson, who has put Mr. Young's conceptions into a workable form (as in the plans, Fig. 1 and 2), is obvious, because in Mr. Paterson's plan the audience have to pass by the doors by which they have entered (notably in the gallery) in order to reach the emergency exits, and it is only natural that they would go through the doors by which they came in, rather than pass on in search of other means of egress; but, as I have said, the principle is good if you could only educate the public so that they would avail themselves of the provisions made. The external balconies alone are most valuable additions to the safety of a building, as they afford a place of refuge from a burning building, from which external aid can easily reach the people.
It is quite true, as Mr. Young states, that if the audience were aware of the exits, then the system would be an immense advantage over the present one of providing two exits for each tier; but the difficulty arises in getting the public to go through the extra exits.
One might further comment upon Mr. Paterson's interpretation of Mr. Young's "system" by drawing attention to the extravagant amount of space which is required in order to carry out the scheme, making it prohibitive to any manager in the outlay necessitated by the purchase of so much additional land whereon to erect the building, which, after all, would only seat such a small number as 1,425 persons; but I look upon these plans as mere diagrams to illustrate the "system," which, however, Mr. Baes has carried out in a far more practical and economical manner in the Flemish Theatre, Brussels (Figs. 3 and 4).
Again, in Figs. 1-2, to approach the stalls the way of access shown is by traversing the pit corridor, passing the pit bar on the one side and the pit urinal on the other, unless, indeed, the occupants of the stalls use the same staircases as the dress-circle and descend again by the circle extra exit staircase. It is a question if this method would meet the approval of the London authorities. A point is made that the pit is on the street-level; but it is well known that a building is far safer where the height of the gallery from the pavement is reduced by placing the area below the street-level, there being less danger in ascending from the pit than in descending by a long staircase from the gallery. All theatrical architects agree on this important point.
It is only in towns where municipal assistance is afforded that such a scheme as Mr. Young's would be practicable. It is to be regretted that this is the case, and that private enterprise and speculation should overrule the safety of the public in a place of entertainment. There are many of the theatre regulations of the London County Council that are drawn up for the purposes of theatres which are equally applicable to concert-halls, and are enforced by the authorities to this class of building. A short résumé will not be out of place while speaking on this subject of safety. In large concert-halls the site question enters as stringently as in the case of theatres - that is to say, one half at least of the boundary of the site must abut upon thoroughfares of a given width, as specified in the regulations. A concert-hall must be a building by itself, and not directly over or under other premises. I have already dwelt upon this point, showing how the custom abroad differs from the custom in London.
The regulations dealing with the widths of entrances and exits is governed by the number of the audience. Each tier must have two exits - that is to say, an entrance and an exit, which, in my opinion, should both be used as entrances as well as exits. The number of tiers in a concert-hall must not exceed those laid down by the regulation of the L.C.C. for a theatre - that is to say, the maximum of three tiers, including gallery, is all that is allowed in London. The height of air space over the gallery and between the first balcony and pit level is regulated by the same rules, and where the area level is below the street, the architect is restrained by Rule 9, which does not permit the floor of the building to be placed at a greater depth than 15ft. below the street-level. Retiring-rooms for the artists must have their separate entrances; but it has not been the custom of the London County Council to insist upon this in minor concert halls. In matters of detail, such as size and rise of steps, the widths of landings, lengths of flights, provision of handrails, &c., the same rules apply to concert-halls as to theatres. The widths of gangways is regulated by the same rules, and these are always enforced, even in the smallest concert-halls.
Gas arrangements as described in the 24th regulation stand good for the buildings we are now discussing. The manner in which doors are hung, and the description and pattern of bolts, provision of barriers, &c., are defined in the 25th regulation.
With regard to fire-protection, the larger halls are treated the same as the theatres; but the smaller ones are dealt with according to the merits of the case. In all cases the lighting and exit notices are always insisted upon. In short, wherever the London County Council regulations as to theatres can be made applicable to concert-halls, they are enforced. I will not dwell in further detail upon these points, as I have already described in full the necessity and working of each of these regulations as applied to theatres in my articles upon that subject which have appeared in the columns of the Building news, and I have also spoken fully upon many of the points in this series when they have had special reference to concert-halls and assembly-rooms.
Images begin again at Fig 1
Some brief reference must now be made to that large class of buildings, both at home and abroad, which is covered by the term music-hall. The inclusion in this series of these halls is called for because they are, strictly speaking, both concert-halls and places of assembly, and whatever their development may have been in the past few years as theatres of varieties, it is well known that they originated from the concert-room attached to the public-house. There is no doubt that the free-and-easy concerts which used to be indulged in in the bar-parlour extended gradually in scope until they created the demand for more extensive accommodation than that room afforded, then, step by step, the hall with a flat floor and raised platform developed into the theatre of varieties with galleries and fully-equipped stage, such as we are all now familiar with. When at first the audience were contented with entertaining themselves, a small room in a public-house sufficed; but when professional talent was required it became necessary to increase the seating space so as to pay the extra expense. Once the artiste was introduced, the theatrical element in the arrangement of the building had to follow, and so public taste influenced the form of the building, and architects have produced as variety theatres some of the finest assembly-halls we can claim in England.
I have made frequent reference in these papers to the well-known hall in Leicester-square, the Alhambra, Figs. 1 and 2, which was so skilfully raised by the architects, Messrs. Perry and Reed, from the ruins left after the fire which destroyed the old Alhambra in December, 1882. How the construction of the old and new hall differs I know well, as I had the opportunity of examining the effect the fire had made upon the building when I visited the ruins before they were cool. But quite apart from construction, the Alhambra can claim merit as being a building devoted to variety entertainment, and yet having an auditorium with architectural pretensions. True there are other music-halls not totally devoid of treatment other than that afforded by the plastic decorator and the theatrical painter, whose one desire is a lavish use of gold leaf and cream colour, but they are so few compared with the number of music-halls that exist that one welcomes gladly those which have some claim to design.
Why is it that music-halls are made vulgar through lack of architectural skill? Nobody can deny the fact that to one hall which is decent in design there are twenty which are atrocious, and not only atrocious in decoration, but in planning as well.
I am familiar with halls of recent erection, where it is impossible to see the stage from any of the side seats, other than the front row, in balcony or gallery, and there is a notable example of a hall which had to be closed some few months after it was built, because the people who went into the gallery wanted their money back when they found they could not witness the performance. And the men who designed (?) the plans called themselves architects!
Because a hall is devoted to a class of entertainment which certain sections of society do not consider of high merit, there is no reason why the building should be bad, even if the performance is considered by some to be so. I would say if you wish to elevate the performance, improve your buildings, for the better the building the better the class of people who will attend, and then the demand will be for a better class of entertainment. This has proved itself over and over again. If a skilled architect rebuilds a music-hall so as to make it an architectural success in all respects its whole environment is affected.
That a good building draws a good company, both in front and behind the footlights, is seen from the example of the Palace Theatre. Some of my readers may say that this is not any concern of the architect, and that I am dwelling on points outside his consideration. I contend I am not, for it should be the one aim of the architect to produce the best building possible, and with his art to exercise the power of good influence with which it endows him, and even on a music-hall his art will not be thrown away. I speak not only of colour, decoration, and design, but of planning, sighting, and construction.
In the Alhambra we have a type of one of our large West End "palace of varieties" as they are so frequently named. It was the first so-called fireproof theatre built in London; the concrete was made to a great extent from the bricks of the old building, broken up by powerful steam crushers and mixed with Portland cement; the new building thus literally sprang from the ruins of the old one. The whole of the floors, galleries, roofs, partitions, box divisions, and staircases are of this fire-resisting material, no timber other than that of the stage and furniture being used in the building. This music-hall was one of the first to have the cantilever construction applied to the overhanging balconies. A special feature to be noted is the forethought of the architects in so constructing the ceiling that the periodical cleaning and redecorating can be done without scaffolding, and therefore, without interruption to the nightly performance. The ceiling is dome-shaped, constructed of light iron framing with fibrous plaster panels, which can be lifted out of the frames, repainted, and replaced. There is an external dome over the ceiling, which springs in iron ribs from the columns to a central ring which supports the cupola.
Over the proscenium is a sounding-board, formed as shown on the section, Fig. 2. This also serves the purpose of concealing the massive iron girder which spans the opening. The girder is 44ft. long and 6ft. in depth. The proscenium opening is 32ft. wide by 41ft. high.
I illustrate one of Mr. Frank Matcham's finest halls, which is most appropriately designed for the needs of an East-End audience. The plan and section represent the Paragon Theatre of Varieties in the Mile End-road (Figs. 3 and 4). Like all this architect's work, there is not a seat in this hall where you cannot obtain an uninterrupted view of the stage. The large and open auditorium renders it bearable to sit in this hall in spite of numberless pipes and East-End cigars. This is an assembly-hall where the special needs of the case have been considered with care and success.
This was originally a public-house - The Boar and Castle - and the vestibule of the present house is on the site of the actual entrance-gateway to the old coaching-yard of the inn.
It was Mr. Morton who first constructed a hall in connection with this old coaching-house, and we read that it was in its time the finest hall in London, 94ft. long by 44ft. wide and 41ft. high, furnished with roomy promenades behind the well-known Corinthian columns, which have been described as so nobly supporting the roof and obstructing the view.
The Oxford, as a hall, is distinct in character from the palace of variety type. Standing out in London with marked success, it is admirably adapted for the purpose for which it was built.
As a place of assembly the music-hall is as important as the theatre.
The same rules which govern the safety of the public in theatres govern that of the frequenters of music-halls; the construction of the one is similar to the construction of the other: rules of sighting and acoustics are equally applicable to both; fire protection is as needful in one as in the other; entrances and exits are required in equal proportions to the numbers accommodated in either building, and the authorities deal with them on the same basis as regards planning and construction.
Why, I ask, therefore, do not architects also look seriously upon a music-hall as a building worthy of their best efforts, their best art, and their best work in all its branches?
The public are tired of the publichouse-like interiors, with gilded mirrors and vulgar glare. They have shown their appreciation wherever better work has been done, and how is it the old class of hall has not yet died out?
You may find the following pages from this site of interest: