sea plane hangar of tallinn, anatomy of an acoustic space

We had the good fortune during the recent Tuned City pre-event, to spend some time in the historic Sea Plane Hanger currently under renovation in Tallinn. The idea of working in the Hangar was initiated by sculptor Lukas Kühne who happened to walk by the structure on an earlier visit to Tallinn and hear some echoes emanating from inside. The particular acoustic effect of this site slowly developed into the notion of a ‘sonic landmark’ the general theme for Tuned City Tallinn 2011. While being a sonic landmark for us, the building is also a historic landmark on the national scale. It was commissioned by the last czar of Russia and built just before the communist revolution of 1917. The domes that make up the roof characterize a style of light freestanding concrete structures designed and built well before such forms were found in the modernist era. The fact that it survived two world wars and the soviet era is also rather remarkable. The hangar is now under renovation and will be turned into a Maritime Museum.

For the purposes of Tuned City, the unique arched dome structure of the hangar offered a great example of ‘aural architecture‘ with the possibility of artistic exploration and intervention. Below are some examples and clips from the pre-preparation events of May 18-29, 2010. The three examples shown here each take a different approach to working with the space, from the technical precision of Granchow’s ‘Crescents’ to the social improvisatory group process of Lukas Kühne’s ‘Sound and Form’ workshop. What is clear in the recordings is the effect the curved ceiling has on the impulse of the sound which comes out as a traveling echo that disperses throughout the space. What does not come across is how strongly the effect changes with the relative position of the listener in the space. The recordings below were made by me and are shorter excerpts from longer pieces by each author.

Raviv Granchow – Crescents

Raviv Granchow – Crescents

photo by: Carsten Stabenow

Thomas Ankersmit – site-specific performance

Full recording now available via Touch Radio: Touch Radio #56 Thomas Ankersmit full performance recording

Lukas Kühne – Form and Sound workshop

Lukas Kuhne form and sound

video showing the process within the space (sound quality is basic as this was filmed on a digital camera)

[vimeo width=”580″ height=”310″][/vimeo]

It should be noted that getting access to the Hangar was a challenging feat in itself particularly as it is under construction. As you can see in the photos, hard hats were mandatory in the space. Occasionally pieces of old concrete would fall from above making working conditions rather precarious. Both Carsten Stabenow and Lukas Kühne were good in keeping their vision to use the space while Ott Sarapuu (Estonian Maritime Museum) and Triin Kapp (2011 Foundation) helped on the official levels. The construction company and particularly the night guard were very generous to allow the artists access to the space after hours.

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