LES ARTS GSTAAD
Beauty versus Function
I think two architectural principles are at loggerheads over the concert hall in the Les Arts Gstaad arts centre: and they are Beauty and Function. There is no doubt that the building will be stunningly beautiful, inside and out. And the sound in the concert hall will no doubt be superb. So much for Beauty. By contrast, Function will be seriously impaired. There is going to be NO ORCHESTRA PIT for on-stage performances of ballet and opera concertante; there’s going to be NO CHORUS SEATING, needed for major choral works in the classical repertoire; there’s going to be NO ORGAN, a Must in an international performance arts venue; there are going to be NO WINDOWS (!) for the artists’ dressing rooms, for the Green Room, or for the orchestral players’ and chorus rooms; and there are going to be NO RESTAURANTS for the concert public, for the performers, for the technicians, for the visitors to the exhibition rooms, or for the travellers using the coach station situated below the arts centre. Beauty wins hands down, but, alas, Function loses out.
When I went to Athens for the first time, in 1958, on the way to Lesbos, I was invited to a tour of the Parthenon, perhaps the most important architectural experience in my life. Then there I learnt, that great architecture combines beauty and function, that great architecture is sculpture, that serves purpose in every single one of its details.
8 November 2011