Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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Shoe Box: An Analysis of the Concert Hall and its Adaption to Small-Scale Music Performance Space

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posted on 2021-11-12, 09:24 authored by Mauvan, John

In the first 150 years after 1600, western music was traditionally performed in palace ballrooms which were mostly rectangular in shape. In the following two centuries a change in social conditions led to the first halls especially built for public concerts. Although the audience capacity of these halls had increased exponentially, those that derived from the rectangular plans and dimensions of the ballrooms in the century before proved to have particularly favourable acoustics. The proportions of which are roughly that of a double cube, 1:1:2. Today this rectangular form is widely ascribed throughout acoustic literature as the shoebox. Although the shoebox has proven a popular paradigm in all time periods, until the late nineteenth century little was known of the scientific reasoning for its acoustic success. Therefore much of the contemporary literature regarding the model has focused on the large-scale designs of the nineteenth and twentieth century. Comparatively, less is written about the adaption of these design concepts to smaller-scaled concert facilities with audience capacities up to 400 persons. This thesis analyses a number of highly celebrated large-scale concert halls, with audience capacities between 1,500-3,000, and tests the application of their design principles to small-scale concert spaces with capacities ranging between 100-350 persons. The aims of this thesis are applied to a design project, which seeks to adapt the traditional shoebox archetype to a series of small-scale concert spaces, initiated by a design brief for the New Zealand School of Music (NZSM). The design project relocates the NZSM to an existing building on a disused site in central Wellington. Acknowledging the programmatic need for acoustic performance in conjunction with the social component inherent to the occupation of an urban territory, this thesis investigates two strands of design logic: technical and contextual. One strand investigates the acoustic performance of the concert hall; the other investigates its response to site context. The findings from this thesis are substantiated through a method of proportionate variation whereby the acoustic principles of large-scale concert halls are adopted to small-scale music halls. In addition, the findings established from a site analysis of contemporary large-scale concert halls are then downscaled to inform the integration of the NZSM programme with the proposed inner city site.


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Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Master of Architecture (Professional)

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Architecture


Danielmeier, Tobias