Northwest NEWS

September 21, 1998


Seattle's newest jewel: Benaroya Hall





   Photo by Jeff Goldberg/Esto

The design of Benaroya Hall's concert auditorium integrates acoustics with architecture. The interior surfaces are shaped to diffuse sound so the hall feels like being inside a musical instrument.

by Deborah Stone
   Seattle is a vibrant and attractive city with numerous attractions. The long-awaited Benaroya Hall, the brand-new home of the Seattle Symphony Orchestra, can now be added to this list of must-see destinations.
   The culmination of nearly two decades of planning and fund-raising, Benaroya Hall opened Sept. 12 with much fanfare and hoopla.
   The $118 million hall, built in response to the community's artistic needs and growing audience numbers for the performing arts, was completed in two years, on time and on budget.
   The hall launched its two week span of inaugural concerts, recitals and other events commemorating the occasion. It is an exciting and thrilling beginning for Seattle Symphony's 95th season which promises to be a memorable one.
   This is Seattle's first facility to be built exclusively for concert music performances, allowing the Seattle Symphony the ability to expand its concert schedule by over thirty percent from the previous year, as well as offer concerts on new days and at new times.
   The up-coming season will showcase notable guest conductors, distinguished artists and visiting orchestras from around the world. In addition to its Masterpiece (classical) Series, the Seattle Symphony will offer a variety of concert series to appeal to a wide range of musical tastes that include baroque, pops, light classics and chamber music. The Saturday morning children's series "Discover Music!" will continue its successful performances aimed specifically to the six to ten year old listener.
   Benaroya Hall occupies an entire city block in the heart of downtown Seattle. The design of the hall, by LMN Architects, accommodates two performing spaces: the S. Mark Taper Foundation Auditorium, a 2500-seat concert hall at the center of the site and the Illsley Ball Nordstrom Recital Hall, a 540-seat facility for performances by smaller ensembles and solo artists, at the north end of the complex.
   There is a spectacular circular lobby enclosed in bay windows which affords outstanding views of the city's skyline and gives concert-goers a strong sense of community.
   Along Third Avenue there is a block-long arcade, the Boeing Company Gallery, with entrances from three streets to the concert hall and recital hall lobbies, ticket office, shops, cafes, an underground parking garage and the transit tunnel next to the site. Inside the rectangular concert hall, dark wood paneling and ivory tones give audiences a feeling of warmth and intimacy.
   It is a handsome and elegant structure which is reminiscent of the old concert halls of Europe.
   Great care and research went into the seating arrangement which provides excellent viewing from all sections, as well as spacious leg room. Three tiers of interlocking boxes along the side walls are oriented toward the stage, allowing audiences seated in these areas to also experience a close connection with the performers.
   The stage, with a dramatic, floor-to-ceiling pipe organ at the center, is enclosed in a permanent acoustic shell that reflects sound to the audience and also to the musicians on stage.
   Sound is diffused through the hall via a myriad of reflecting surfaces. Concert-goers have pronounced the acoustic quality to be excellent with crystal clear and vibrant tones.
   Visual art displays, including a twelve foot high mural by Robert Rauschenberg, two new stunning Dale Chihuly glass chandeliers and an outdoor sculpture by Mark di Suvero (owned by the Seattle Art Museum) enhance Benaroya Hall's feast for the senses.
   This jewel of a concert hall will usher the Seattle Symphony into a new era with much deserved pomp and circumstance.
   For complete program information call the Seattle Symphony Ticket Office at 206-215-4747.