This is brilliant — and this humanitarian, socially committed project makes me very proud to be associated with the Lucerne Festival (I serve as the English program editor). It’s the brainchild of Intendant Michael Haefliger, the Japanese architect Arata Isosaki, and the Indian-born British sculptor Anish Kapoor: a concert hall that is indeed mobile, designed in a way that makes it quick to assemble and then take apart to move to another location.
It all resulted from the urgent desire to do something to help the victims of the massive earthquake and tsunami in March 2011 that wrought such incredible devastation in northeastern Japan. Most of the world has forgotten that two and a half years on, the local population in the most heavily affected areas is still living in makeshift housing.
In the case of Ark Nova, the idea was to somehow deploy artistic expertise to improve conditions for these people. “With our humanitarian cultural project we want to contribute to the ongoing reconstruction,” says Haefliger. The Ark Nova — “ark” being the German version of the Greek arche for “beginning,” though I also like the verbal resemblance to Noah’s Ark — is meant to provide a venue for desperately needed cultural inspiration, where the local populace can get together as a community.
“We want to bring artists from around the world to Tohoku to restore strength and bring back confidence for the people in the region affected by the disaster in 2011,” explains Isozaki. (The project’s name, I’m told, also refers to an old Japanese proverb, but I don’t know the details.)
Here’s one of the official descriptions of this amazing design:
The shell consists of a PVC-coated polyester tarpaulin of over 2000 square meters. It is 0.63 mm thick and weighs 1700 kg. When inflated, the hall has a volume of over 9000 cubic meters. In the final stage, the maximum expansion is 29 meters wide, 36 meters long, and 18 meters high. Therefore this unique construction offers a space of 680 square meters for a large stage and around 500 seats, allowing for the concept of flexible use for various events appealing to different large audiences. The audience benches are made of wood from cedar trees in the region of the Zuiganji Temple of Matsushima which had been uprooted by the disaster of March 2011. Thus a link will be forged between LUCERNE FESTIVAL ARK NOVA and this place of historical and spiritual significance.
Tomorrow Gustavo Dudamel will be on hand to get the Ark Nova started. He’s going to lead a workshop of local kids, who are forming an ad hoc orchestra. Periodic updates on the project will appear here.