JS Bach Chamber Music Hall by
Zaha Hadid Architects



Zaha Hadid Architects have built an installation at Manchester Art Gallery to house performances of music by Baroque composer Johann Sebastian Bach.


A translucent, fabric membrane stretched over a steel structure suspended from the ceiling divides and encloses the space, creating a stage, enclosure for the audience and passages into and out of the auditorium.


Clear, acrylic panels suspended above the stage reflect and disperse the sound.


Created for the Manchester International Festival, the venue hosts a series of concerts which started last Friday and continue until 18 July. Concert details are on the MIF website.


See all our stories about Zaha Hadid Architects in our special category.

Images courtesy of Zaha Hadid Architects, © Luke Hayes.

The following is from Zaha Hadid Architects:



Zaha Hadid Architects have created a unique chamber music hall specially designed to house solo performances of the exquisite music of Johann Sebastian Bach.


A voluminous ribbon swirls within the room, carving out a spatial and visual response to the intricate relationships of Bach’s harmonies. As the ribbon careens above the performer, cascades into the ground and wraps around the audience, the original room as a box is sculpted into fluid spaces swelling, merging, and slipping through one another.


“The design enhances the multiplicity of Bach’s work through a coherent integration of formal and structural logic. A single continuous ribbon of fabric swirls around itself, creating layered spaces to cocoon the performers and audience with in an intimate fluid space.” said Hadid.


The process of realizing the design involved architectural considerations of scale, structure and acoustics to develop a dynamic formal dialogue inseparable from its intended purpose as an intimate chamber music hall.


A layering of spaces and functions is achieved through the ribbon wrapping around itself, alternately compressing to the size of a handrail then stretching to enclose the full height of the room. Circulatory and visual connections are continually discovered as one passes through the multiple layers of space delineated by the ribbon.


The ribbon itself consists of a translucent fabric membrane articulated by an internal steel structure suspended from the ceiling. The surface of the fabric shell undulates in a constant but changing rhythm as it is stretched over the internal structure.


It varies between the highly tensioned skin on the exterior of the ribbon and the soft billowing effect of the same fabric on the interior of the ribbon. Clear acrylic acoustic panels are suspended above the stage to reflect and disperse the sound, while remaining visually imperceptible within the fabric membrane.


Programmed lighting and a series of dispersed musical recordings activate the spaces between the ribbon outside of performance times. The installation is designed to be transportable and re-installed in other similar venues.


Pivotal to its function is the performance of the ribbon. It has been designed to simultaneously enhance the acoustic experience of the concert while spatially defining a stage, an intimate enclosure, and passageways. It exists at a scale in which it is perceived as both an object floating in a room as well as a temporal architecture that invites one to enter, inhabit and explore.


CLIENT: Manchester International Festival

PROGRAMME: Chamber Music Hall

ARCHITECTS: Zaha Hadid Architects

DESIGN TEAM (Zaha Hadid Architects): Melodie Leung, Gerhild Orthacker

ACOUSTIC CONSULTANT: Sandy Brown Associates

FABRICATOR: Base Structures


SITE: Manchester Art Gallery, T1 Gallery

SITE AREA: 17m x 25m

Posted on Tuesday July 7th 2009 at 2:28 pm by . Copyright policy | Comments policy

  • I wonder if the acoustics really work?


    i have to admit that for not being a fan of Zaha….this one is pretty nice.

  • DaveofHampstead

    For Ninian – Yes, it does…you should go to Manchester next weekend to enjoy the performance!

  • Richie

    It looks very pretty, like being on the inside of a big seashell, and I like the ‘continuous ribbon’ concept.. Like the first poster I’m curious to know how well the acoustics will work.

  • i agree with PACMAN, it looks pertty nice. Good work.

  • scruces


  • sullka

    To me this one (and that store I forgot it’s name) is one of the few Hadid’s that make’s sense, and not only that, it’s really beautiful.

  • jack the ripper

    I ‘ d love to put this through the test and listen to ” air on g string “and toccata…
    this could be one of her best …


  • modular

    I’m definitely not a Zaha fan, yet I really like this. So simple and light. It’s smooth and poetic. Yet, I doubt that acoustically it will work out nicely.

    Anyway… great job. I like Zaha a little more today.

  • ste

    really beautiful… reduced and breathtaking… best zaha for a good while! i definitely love the 2nd picture with siloutte of the piano!!

    fluid forms without the unnecessary alien-future-style… nice!

  • h

    yes, more this…less boats on roofs.

  • Best Zaha work I have seen for ages

  • MAX

    I really appreciate her job and the studio…

    This project is very elegant

  • Dave

    Nice. Hadid has been taking this Rhino modeled, plastic architecture a little too far lately, but it fits this project well. For once she is actually utilizing her process for human interaction without lifeless shiny plastic forms. Great job.

  • yearofthemonkey

    This is just awful.

    1. The acoustic performance would be seriously below par – one can tell from the type, material, and composition of the surfaces. Acoustic baffles are an afterthought – not a part of an integrated design. Do these baffles need to be demounted, transported and recalibrated when the thing is moved?

    2. The composition is a cliche; “a spatial and visual response to the intricate relationships of Bach’s harmonies”. Beautiful or not (I say not) the architectural content is thin and lazy. Not unlike a ribbon.

    3. From the look of the photos it would appear the ribbon is not creating interesting spaces as described. It looks thin and cheap – it LOOKS temporary.

  • Lisa

    it’s simple but elegant. hopefully the acoustics work, because visually, it is beautiful.

  • Dong K

    i agree with pacman

  • Boo

    I have resisted Zaha Hadid until today: this makes absolute sense.

    The curving space is a response to the lines of music.

    And apparently there are a whole lot of resisters to the Zaha who have fallen in love with this.


    Perhaps it really is “truly” beautiful.

    Long live the curvey queen!

  • vibenade

    have to agree..this is nice, maybe the acoustics panels are fixed to the parameter wall, not the fabric membrane..it’s more like a stage props.

  • Please stop focusing on Zaha and giving her personal all the credits,
    it’s by Melodie Leung & Gerhild Orthacker.
    Cheers to them.

    In an office of this size and with that kind of worldwide coverage I don’t think she still spends time behind the drawing table espacially not for small scale thingies like this one!
    Anyways, it’s a nice stage design.

  • Dev

    Can’t be her too much of her input it’s too nice!
    Who in her studio did this one?
    Must be the only employee without an alien growing inside them.


  • Hmm, something half-decent for a change!

  • Juan Garces

    This is a very exceptional work, usually, at least for what one can assume by reading comments, Zaha Hadid’s work is strongly rejected. This time its different. I even found my self liking it and its a surprise. Maybe because it works on a smaller scale, with more economic and intelligent means.

  • Once more, projects to dream. Not to work. If nowadays architecture is showoff, Chamber music acoustics should not suffer with irresponsability. Real admirers will leave concerts.

  • narinder mann

    i’ve seen this last week and believe me it is breath taking, beautiful, simple an chic. Can’t wait to see it full.

  • miami
  • Wybie


  • Jes

    I like it so much!
    the space looks so interesting!

  • eve

    yeah! Oskar Hansen would like that..

  • James

    “pretty nice” “something half decent for a change” can’t “have had much of her input, it’s too nice” etc etc., all these mean minded, damning with faint praise comments. You should be ashamed of yourselves, though a tall poppy always attract such comments from the surrounding pygmies. I have more sympathy with the person who calls it “simply awful”, though my reaction is the opposite.

    This is absolutely gorgeous. I love it. Utterly.

  • zee

    Great concept, brilliant execution. I am going to visit the installation within the next couple of weeks. I cannot wait to see it.

  • christos stylianou

    I was at a lunchtime performance in this space yesterday and was suprised how well executed it was in actuality. It is a very dynamic form the swirls around the audience and stage and makes them feel as equally important . The acoustics seem to work well, though I was watching a solo trombone performance and assume the effect of a number of performers at the same time would had a vast greater impact. What was even greater to see, was the audience reaction to the intervention after the performance, which was one of awe and intrigue . For me this is what architecture should be about and when stripped of function and muted this piece still makes lots of noise.

  • Linda

    I heard Jean-Guihen Queyras play Bach suites on a 1696 cello there last night. It was exquisite. It felt like a drawing room in the clouds, and the accoustics were so good I could hear him breathing – the fingering was a delicate rhythm section. For everyone who missed it, the Manchester International Festival has been superb. Put it in your diary for 2011.

  • Jannie

    Whimsical, yet so real! Abstract, yet so practical! It’s a piece of art that has feelings and emotions! Being a musician myself, I’d love to play music in it. I think the witty Mozart would agree as well.

    Sure hope it will travel to many more cities for many more people to enjoy! Bravo, Melodie and Gerhild!

  • Franco Rizzo

    Finally Architecture breaks the rigid old canons. Melodie & Gerhild are true fine artists, they have something to say that’s new, more than beautifully elegant elevate further the realms of architecture from the
    mundane view of usefulness into the into a true artistic sphere all by
    itself. The presence of the intagible makes it simply wonderful!
    Melodie & Gerhild welcome to the World of Art!

  • PBBB

    so beautiful…love it

  • zee

    I went to see it today

    Its absolutely beautiful seeing the installation in flesh.

  • shinzyus

    Really creative: Zaha, u sure know how to stir up yourantagonists. thumbs up to you.
    Now guys, are these buildings/ structures practical; Acoustics and actual construction?
    I must still be in the stone age!

  • small scale interventions are really where zaha hadid can freely enjoy her vizual vocabulary
    small program calls for something sculptural, that is, a contemporary non-sculpture is a better definition

  • Mohamed Elfeky

    really full of sensations …and it’s inspirable.

  • Fantabulous design, i think the manage of the room is amazing.