architecture : urban : visual culture

Sound Under Ground

Miklós Dormán has long been frustrated by the shortage of musical venues in the city center of Budapest, so much so, that he decided to design one, which can house various upcoming bands an provide a suitable acoustic experience for them and their crowd. 


Since prices on the real estate market are getting higher and higher, and the silence regulations are stricter than ever before, both classical and popular musicians are having a hard time when it comes to organizing concerts. During summer, it is easier to find the right place, because there are numerous outdoor clubs and summer festivals taking place in the capital city. However, during other parts of the year, bands and musicians are often struggling with the fact that the number of central indoor clubs with good acoustics has dramatically decreased. Gozsdu Manó Klub, Roham, R33 and Kuplung has closed in the past few years, just to name a few. Dürer Kert is going down on the same path, unfortunately.

It is a noticeable trend that new locations have only chances on the outskirts of the city. Regarding good-quality acoustics, the last available places located in the city center are A38 and Akvárium Klub, but they build their profiles based on foreign bands. As a result, the Hungarian musical community is being supplanted from the best sounding locations.

My project would like to reflect on the problems described above, meaning that the Hungarian pop-music scene has no acoustically well-designed space, that is customizable and where they can sound their best.


The project takes place near the Kelenföldi Hőerőmű that is currently standing abandoned and railed off. But there are an enormous hall and a watercourse. The hall is designed by Bierbauer Virgill and functioned back then as the control center of the thermal power station. The building itself has a high artistic and architectural value. Therefore, I suggest altering neither the structure nor the looks.

In my project, the hall will be the home to several rehearsal rooms, since it is divided into cells with the help of ferroconcrete walls. Regarding this format, the Art House Tacheles served as a huge inspiration. Contrarily, the dewatering pool will stand hollow, because it is sound-proof by its nature. I am creating the outdoor concert space there and right next to it another indoor venue below the surface of the ground.

Mock-up photo - architect: Miklós Dormán


Conception – shepherding and serving sound

We can see the concept illustrations on how to set up the different situations.
I organize the opened and the indoors blocks around one central ‘street’. This makes easy to divide functionally, structurally (dilatation) and acoustically the two parts. The underground circumstance is an advance to keep off the voice propagation.

Concept - architect: Miklós Dormán

Sketches - architect: Miklós Dormán

The opened hall - at the 'ex-dewatering pool'- already has thick concrete walls: this is a really good sound insulation to avoid the sound contamination and save the silence in the environment. So here, we could easily 'shepherd' the voice in a good way. This is the great problem in other concert places outside.

What about the indoors concert hall? Have I already investigated how the sound works in a concert hall with different artists and with different formations?

So my plan is a clever box with acoustic panels inside that makes perfect acoustic circumstances for all formations of musicians. After lots of interviews with different bands, I have an inspiration to make up a flexible architectural structure that could serve perfect acoustic environment for all kinds of bands...and look pleasurable at the same time. How to make architecture mainly with sound?

Organizing spaces

The building is on the verge of a park full of trees and an industrial area. I exploited the contrasts, such as open and closed, negative and positive spaces with the help of an uncovered road – an inside path, so to say. This very path unfolds the inside spaces and functions which are organized on a scale: from the intimate to the public purposes. 

The public spaces can be found on the left while the dressing and rehearsal rooms are located on the right next to the thermal power station. The publicity scale is present inside the building. On the left side of the layout, one can see the cloakroom, toilets and the reception which are meant to be the more intimate part of the building. These are overlooking the social spaces which are the foreground for the audience. From that point, one can get into the biggest social area, which is the concert hall.

architect: Miklós Dormán

architect: Miklós Dormán


The same logic is visible when it comes to organizing spaces in the backstage. As the most intimate spaces, toilets, makeup rooms, and dressing rooms are located on the right whereas the social rooms for the artists can be found on the left. Box-in-the-box principle. The concert hall is being encompassed by an aisle: first of all, it is functioning as a service passage to the storage rooms. Secondly, it is favorable because of its sound-proofing qualities. Lastly, it is composing a transition between the forefront and the concert hall.

Acoustic system

The Hungarian practice – sadly - often doesn’t take into consideration customizable acoustical features when designing musical scenes, probably because of the high-cost equipment. Classical musical venues seem to represent the only exception. I was working with acoustical engineers and could create a system that is both cost-effective and adaptive to the needs of the pop-music sphere.

The acoustical panels hanging from the ceiling are mobile: one side of them is intensifying sounds while the other is swallowing them. These panels can be easily turned around so that always the right side is in action. They can be variously arranged on the ceiling, and, therefore, meet the expectations of various band formats. The unique effect of these panels hanging from the ceiling is that it is appointing the place of the performer. The panels are moving in synch with the artists - as can be seen in the illustration. That way an organic relation forms between architecture and technology.



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