Hitting the high C

Project showcase
On the one hand, it’s the first class A office building in Bielsko-Biała; while on the other, it’s one of the most modern concert halls in Europe, with the most superb acoustics. Musicians, concert-goers, and corporate employees are all set to converge on Cavatina Hall

In 2019, on the corner of ul. Dworkowa and ul. Sempołowska in Bielsko-Biała in southern Poland, the construction of an office building began that had a concert hall as a central feature. Cavatina Holding, the developer of the project, had identified the commercial potential of the region and its need for modern office space. It had also noticed that the city itself didn’t have a venue for holding concerts, festivals or other similar events. And so, it decided to fill this gap. The revenues from the office space supplement those from the concert section, while the building’s exceptional dual nature enhances its prestige in the eyes of actual and potential tenants.

Construction work on Cavatina Hall was completed in 2021 and the concert hall section opened in February 2022. Today, it is one of the most interesting musical landmarks in Poland – and not only because it was built through the use of private funds. The complex is exceptional in a number of aspects, even when compared to other European cultural buildings.

A shell at the foot of the Beskids

The dual function of the building at the foot of the Beskid mountains is immediately obvious. The office section takes the form of a glazed block, while the concert section is a glass sphere resembling a shell that surrounds the internal façade of the building. “The biggest challenge was to design a building for such specific and demanding use on such a small site and with significant height restrictions. The concert hall steals the show, but the office section completes the building and provides it with its actual context. We wanted the building to have a light organic form, that was both airy and that was an intriguing point in its own space,” explains its architect, Piotr Jasiński, the design director of Cavatina Holding.

The concert hall section has an area of about 4,000 sqm as well as an impressive height of 17m and seating for 1,000 people. Adjacent to this is the function room, which can fit in 150 people. Concerts can also be held on the rooftop terrace, while there are also two recording studios within the complex.

Cavatina’s own team of architects and builders were responsible for the entire project, while the acoustics were the work of Warsaw studio of EwkAkustika, which is owned by Ewa Więckowska-Kosmala, who has worked on several concert hall, philharmonic centre and theatre projects across Poland. A virtual model of the concert hall has also had to be generated to test out its viability by the acoustics workshop of the Building Research Institute – because every such detail was crucial. The sound quality has been determined not just by the shape of the hall, but also by its balconies – as well as the walls and even the seat coverings.

Immersion in sound

Audio Plus has been involved in the project since the outset. The company has acted as the audiovisual and stage technology consultant while also coordinating its technical development. One key decision it took for the project was to employ an immersive sound system. According to Paweł Kuhn, the marketing director of Audio Plus, there are only a handful of buildings around the world that feature such systems. They enable the location of each instrument in the orchestra to sound natural. The speakers also react automatically to what is happening during the performance, such as someone singing while moving across the stage. This is known as sound tracking, which has not been used up to this point in any other concert hall in Poland. “Everyone ends up listening, including those on the far left or far right of the hall as well as those in the centre, who will hear the singing as if it is coming exactly from its source, the singer, and not from the nearest speaker,” he explains.

The concert hall has a total of 141 speakers, provided by French firm L-Acoustics. To generate this acoustic space, the stage lights have to comprise a full range of speakers and woofers as well as four subwoofers above the audience, while speaker systems in front of the first row and on the second balcony as well as around the audience and on the back wall have been installed. Sound is also provided by speakers suspended from the ceiling.

Together, the speakers in the L-Acoustics L-ISA immersive sound system are designed to work for both symphony orchestra concerts as well as for multimedia projects and film screenings.

Music for all

The Fiducia Foundation is the operator of the concert hall. This institution was founded in 2019 with the support of Cavatina. Among its founding statutes is a commitment to make culture and education available to the underprivileged in society. “Through working with educational centres, local governmental authorities and NGOs, we have created a special programme for the elderly and the young to partially finance the purchase of concert tickets. Moreover, we are making the concert stage and recording studios available to young musicians for their first professional sessions, by organising workshops for them,” claims Katarzyna Pytlarczyk, the president of the Fiducia Foundation.

Over the next season, which starts in September, around 100 concerts are to take place in Cavatina Hall. “The area of the building, the size of the halls, and the technology it uses all mean that events that not only include musical events can be held there. It can also be a superb venue for congresses and conferences, training sessions and business meetings – and on an unprecedented scale for this region. Additional conference rooms are also available, along with the foyer and the patio on the roof,” points out Katarzyna Pytlarczyk.

Culturally certified

In the office building world, certification has now become the standard – and Cavatina Hall is no exception to this trend. The office and service section, which is occupied by US tech firm Ellie Mae as well as by Cavatina itself, has already been awarded BREEAM at the ‘Excellent’ level. However, the concert section also has the very same certificate, which is unheard of elsewhere across Europe. “We began the certification for the concert hall much earlier than for the office section. Coordination meetings had to be held with the certification body BRE to fulfil the criteria for the concert hall to function as a non-standard building,” explains Agnieszka Seweryn, a BREEAM engineer at Cavatina Holding.

It is not only the elevators and the lighting that are energy-efficient in Cavatina Hall, but also its sound system. Even during a concert, you’re always able to take in a good lungful of fresh air. Sensors have also been fitted in the hall to help increase the ventilation whenever carbon dioxide levels grow too high. “The building scored full points for its use of natural and resources and its sustainability during the certification process,” claims Agnieszka Seweryn.

“Cavatina Hall has already established itself as a showpiece of the city, while improving how tenants perceive the building itself. This is the first development in Bielsko-Biała to provide class A office space along with the option to easily alter the space to suit the company’s needs,” points out Dariusz Wysocki, the director of marketing and PR for Cavatina Hall.

Previously, the site of the complex was dominated by factories, but since the land around the two buildings has been redeveloped, to become a showpiece for the city of Bielsko-Biała itself, open to all its residents – and not just its white-collar workers and music lovers.