Close Encounters Venice Biennale
2018, Venice, Italy
Salle Cortot is renowned for its superb acoustics and intimate space. The building presents a restrained and finely wrought frontispiece to the street, revealing little of the surprise of this extraordinary space, moulded of bronzed concrete and plywood. The acoustic environment is finely tuned and the means by which this is achieved, volume, proportion, articulation and layering of materials is completely integrated in the building design. A highly tuned instrument for playing and listening, the rapport between the music and the listener is intimate and intense.
The plan is ingenious, a particular response to the constricted city site but typologically derived from a rich tradition of assembly rooms-the Greek Bouleuterion, Teatro Olimpico and Teatro Farnese.
The essential experience of this archetypal space is the connection between the music and the audience. The music progresses in its notes, chords and harmonies over time, modified and tuned by the space and form of the building itself but also by the seated members of the audience. With no seat being more than 17 metres from the oval stage, the bodies of the audience reduce reverberation, while the angles and curves of the enclosure diffract and reflect the sound.
The particular character of the space has earned it the nickname “ l’armoire” one that, in the words of Perret, “sings like a violin”.
We present Salle Cortot in the round, a scale model similar to those used in acoustic analysis, inside an armoire that hides the space and music within.
The cabinet is intended to convey the particular architectural characteristics of the building, the scale and proportion of the space, its rich yet Spartan materiality and its hidden quality, embedded in the city.
Music: Chopin’s Impromptu 1 played by Alfred Cortot
John Mark Vinten
The National Sculpture Factory