The Venue: Chan Centre for the Performing Arts

The Venue is a profile series from Laura Murray Public Relations that ventures behind the scenes of Metro Vancouver’s foremost arts and culture venues, diving into the past and unveiling the unique stories and events that have made an indelible impact on our city’s creative community.


Direct from the notebook of the original tour guide, this post is part of a two-part series focused on the design and acoustics of the Chan Centre for the Performing Arts. Please click here to read the first article in the series.


The Chan Centre for the Performing Arts is renowned for its tunable acoustics in the mid-sized Chan Shun Concert Hall. The designers of the Chan Centre – Bing Thom Architects in collaboration with theatre experts, Artec Consultants – devoted a great deal of care and attention to the acoustic design of the concert hall.



In order to grasp a very basic understanding of the acoustics, it is necessary to observe the following elements in the hall: the overall shape of the room, the texture of the walls, the building materials in use, and the canopy.


The elongated Chan Shun Concert Hall is meant to embody the shape of a cello. The overall concave cello shape helps to evenly distribute sound throughout the space. Upon closer examination of the walls, however, it is revealed that they are actually convex – jutting out in an effort to break down the sound as it reaches the hard concrete surface. Further examination of the concrete walls reveals that they are not smooth, but actually stippled in texture. Like the convex shape of the walls, this stippling treatment (which was achieved through jackhammering the concrete once it was installed) also helps to further break down the sound, creating the characteristic warmth that envelops the listener in the hall.



The primary building materials used in the concert hall are concrete and wood; each selected for their ability to reflect sound. There is very little fabric in the hall, which helps to prevent unnecessary muffling of sound. The only fabric found is on the plush, purple seats and on the velour drapes that hang around the perimeter of the room. In order to ensure absolute control over sound absorption, Chan Centre technicians have the ability to raise and lower the drapes based on the amount of dampening required by the type of performance on stage.


One of the most eye-catching acoustic elements in the concert hall is the 22.7 tonne concrete, steel, and gold-plated cork canopy that hovers above the stage. Like the drapes, the canopy can also be raised or lowered (using a 1.5 horsepower motor and a counterweight that runs along the side of the building) to accommodate the amount of sound that needs to be reflected out to the 1,200-seat house.



Today there is an increasing trend in the Chan Centre’s programming towards amplified music. With that in mind, the venue recently installed a new, state-of-the-art Meyer PA system; which is the system most requested in the riders of touring artists today.


You can observe the acoustic treatments in place as well as take in the new sound system at the upcoming Danse Lhasa Danse performance taking place on Saturday, Jan. 18, a co-presentation with the PuSh International Performing Arts Festival.



Categories: MPMG