After completing John Pawson’s restoration of the Archabbey of Pannonhalma, UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Benedictine community has finished another project with Robert Gutowski Architects. International artistic events organized by the Hungarian monks and the need for strengthening pilgrim tourism set out new tasks in the community. There has long been the idea that a recital hall should be available for visitors. With the handover of a new basketball hall completed in 2014, the use of the school’s former gymnasium ended. The former room is closely related to the main entrance of the Abbey buildings but is also rather distinctive and has its own entrance; therefore, it seemed to be an ideal place for the design of a new recital hall.
The space is suitable for holding small scale chamber music concerts. The high ceiling required for chamber music was accomplished by deepening the former gymnasium. Optimal reverberation time of the space is mainly determined by the volume, shape, and proportions of the hall. Based on control measurements, frequency dependent reverberation time in the reconstructed hall is extremely constant in the entire audible range, and the type of decay is also ideal. Moreover, an important element of the hall’s excellent sounding is the high diffusivity of the space, guaranteed by the uniquely designed ash wood panelling. Constant sound energy supply is also supported by a banded beech ceiling, broken design of the sidewalls, optimization of reflective, diffuser, and sound absorbing surfaces, built in membrane surfaces, and carefully designed seats. The unique layer composition of the stage serves for the harmonic acoustical environment of performing artists. The floors are made of oak. Technical facilities, professional lighting, sound, and audiovisual systems, and a digital cinema add further opportunities to the use of the hall, and the environment temperable also in the summer as well the 268 unique seats provide adequate comfort. Around the stage, an additional 132 seats were constructed.
Both the Abbey and the school as well as the designers paid special attention to match the new function to the existing buildings. Wood panellings made in a sophisticated and detailed manner create friendly and likeable spaces. Natural light also plays an important role. The south oriented, lamellae filtered light is further dimmable with the off-white light transmitting shades. The medieval wall fragment found during the deepening of the hall is visible through a floor viewing window. The hall, which was previously used as a table tennis room and gym, gained a new meaning: it became the elegant forefront of the new function. The school is planning to make an exhibition space on the hall’s gallery, and the former gym showers will function as instrumental training rooms, backstage, and a studio forming a unit with the new cultural function. After the handover in late spring of 2016, the school students and guests as well as the audience and musicians of the Arcus Temporum contemporary music festival were pleased to take possession of the hall.
Robert Gutowski Architects is a Budapest-based architectural practice founded in 2004. The practice has developed a reputation for working on a wide range of cultural, heritage and residential projects. Completed and ongoing current projects include a recital hall in Pannonhalma, Unesco World Heritage site, Pilgrim House in Mariazell, Austria and the Modern Art Gallery Palazzo dei Diamanti in Ferrara, Italy. The practice has earned recognition, winning several competitions and awards for completed projects. The reputation of the office is established by both a commitment to the collaborative aspect of creating architecture and a strong focus on refining design ideas to arrive at a solution which is architecturally, socially and intellectually coherent.