It may be grim outside today but a summer of orchestras and proms in the park will soon be upon us. And if architect Jason Flanagan has anything to say about it they will be performed in elegant, acoustically fine tuned stages.
‘For performers the experience of playing outdoors in a [standard] fabric enclosure is often an unfortunate one,’ explains Flanagan, now director of Sound Forms as well as at practice BFLS.
His work at Fosters and BFLS has included the Sage at Gateshead and the Performing Arts Centre for the Welsh College of Music and Drama. But work on a small acoustic project with conductor Mark Stephenson soon turned into something more as they spotted a gap in the market of mobile stages and, working with Arup Acoustics, patented an acoustically lined stage.
The three sizes of stage have a lightweight aluminium truss structure that goes up like a pram hood, an inflatable skin completes the shell and acoustic liners flown inside. As well as creating a reflective surface for performers inside to hear themselves, and the rest of the ensemble, the shell has a peak that projects sound out to an audience of up to 750 without amplification.
Sound Forms launched its £500,000 prototype on 6th March with a broadcast on Radio 3. It was a fairly hairy moment, especially for Flanagan who has a personal investment in the company. ‘People I have spoken to have been keen on buying and renting it – if it existed. We needed to put it up, see how it works, listen to it. Otherwise it was just another great paper scheme.’ He is hoping to see some return on the money sunk into Sound Forms soon; the prototype is already for rent via its partner staging company ES Global.