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22 Mar 2016

The Jordanki concert hall, Poland, by Fernando Menis

Words by  Photo by Jakub Certowicz

There is something both organic and alien about the Jordanki concert hall in Torún, in northern Poland. Its exterior is a fairly urban collection of irregular, rectilinear blocks, while inside resembles a Bond villain’s secret lair, carved out of a volcano. Torún is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, so the new building aims to relate to the city’s medieval architecture and natural locality with a modern twist, explains Tenerife architect Fernando Menis.

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“It is very common for cities with a remarkable architectural history that innovation is difficult,” says Menis. “All we made was thinking of Torún, of the city and its scale. I tried to continue its history and its story with respect, but offering something new, a new little step in the evolution of the city.”

This is achieved, says Menis, largely through materials. Jordanki’s exterior is mostly white board-formed concrete, a pale coating that blends with the building’s surroundings. This facade is “cracked” and cut away in seemingly natural ways to reveal openings, exposing its inner material, a sort-of-terrazzo made from broken-up shards of red brick mixed into white concrete. It’s a new construction technique for which Menis has coined the term 
picado, and which has been certified by Spanish and Polish institutes of building research. Menis first used the technique on the Magma Art and Congress building in Tenerife in 2005, but has since developed the aesthetic to be visually more dynamic and obvious.

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“This is not ornamentation for ornamentation’s sake,” he continues. “It is our tribute to Torún’s medieval architecture, in red brick because the city is red brick – a contemporary interpretation of the traditional material.” The main function of the picado surface is to control acoustics, he explains, which is of utmost importance in a music venue. It allows the absorption of sound to be fine-tuned, he says, and is part of a wider acoustic programme engineered to function for different types of performance, from chamber music to cinema.

The space is also flexible in use thanks to a system of mobile walls and ceiling elements, and removable seats, therefore can adapt to different concerts and capacities and be used simultaneously for different events. The auditorium can even open up towards an outdoor plaza for open-air concerts.

From outside, the structure is designed to appear as a rock on the landscape, low in height so as not to obstruct views in this historic city. The building is certainly a statement from out here, but it is the interior that hits all the right notes.

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