Yuen Long Theatre
nearly all cultural facilities in Hong Kong can be grouped into
one of three categories: the town hall, the civic centre, and the
Royal Festival Hall, the 35-year old City Hall was for a long time
the only major venue for a variety of cultural performances. Shatin
and Tsuen Wan town halls were built in the same mode. Community
events were catered for by small civic centres in districts such
as Sheung Wan, Ngau Chi Wan and Sai Wan Ho; which were often grouped
with other community facilities such as libraries and markets.
there is the Cultural Centre, a major performance arts complex with
dedicated facilities for different types of performances. The Concert
Hall, Grand Theatre and Studio Theatre are also complemented by
a large lobby where exhibitions can be held.
The concept of smaller
arts venues in off- centre locations resulted in the development
of Ko Shan Theatre. Built in 1984, Ko Shan Theatre was a semi-open
venue with an amphitheatre. It was extensively renovated and the
public areas rebuilt in 1996. It was many years later, however,
that the idea of having more small venues in places closer to the
population centres in Hong Kong was given thought. In the 1990s,
the former Regional Council decided to proceed with the development
of two dedicated venues, one for theatrical and the other musical
it was meant to be suitable for a variety of purposes, Yuen Long
Theatre was essentially designed for musical performances just as
Kwai Tsing Theatre (see BJ March 2000) was essentially designed
for theatrical performances.
fundamental difference is evident in the shape of the auditorium
at Yuen Long Theatre as well as its acoustics design. While Kwai
Tsing is wider than it is long, to provide more space for action
and viewing, Yuen Long is just the opposite. It is longer than it
is wide, in the conventional double cube or shoebox layout of musical
performance venues designed to enhance the quality of the music.
fact, the Architectural Services Department had a very specific
brief with regard to the purpose of the auditorium: while it should
be suitable for many types of performances, it must be principally
designed for orchestral concerts. Consequently the auditorium was
designed with a large acoustic volume in mind, "to create a
natural orchestral sound" according to the architect.
Long Theatre has a Midas XL-200 40-input sound system with two main
output, eight independent group output and four auxiliary output.
Unlike Kwai Tsing, it does not have acoustic towels or a separate
ceiling. What it uses to adjust the acoustic volume are 24 remotely-controlled,
motorised drapes which can be extended to cover the side walls and
roof slab. According to Mark Taylor, Technical Director of the Leisure
& Cultural Services Department, the 12 sets of vertical drapes
covering the side walls are normally open for musical events, but
can be closed to provide more acoustic absorption during non-musical
events. Depending on the demands of a conductor or orchestra, they
can also be adjusted to provide the right amount of reverberation
during an orchestral performance.
large, black horizontal drapes covering the ceiling slab can also
be moved at the press of a button, to cover the reflective material
in the ceiling and deliver the acoustics required. Stopping points
between the drapes' open and closed limits allow for fine adjustments.
panels hung on four motorised bars suspended from a grid above the
forestage are another device for adjusting the acoustic volume.
When a musical acoustic is not required, the panels can be hung
vertically from two bars while the other two are used for suspending
stage lighting or loudspeakers.
Taylor said the acoustician provided some guidelines for moving
the drapes and panels to suit the acoustic demands of different
performances, as a starting point, but the theatre's
would then have to build up a database as the theatre is used for
actual performances in the years to come.
best way is for a good stage manager who knows how the elements
work and what to do with them to write it out," he observed.
Getting the acoustics
right for any kind of performance is a fine art. The size of the
auditorium, the optimum distance between the orchestra and the audience
and the choice of fittings all have to be carefully worked out.
timber used in the theatre, for example, must be of the right density.
is usually specified in terms of density, which affects the reflectivity.
Dense hardwoods are preferred to maintain the 'live' feeling within
the hall by reflecting virtually the full spectrum of sound frequency.
It is also important to ensure timber is a minimum of 25 mm thick,
preferably 38 mm, to avoid excessive loss of bass response,"
Mr Taylor explained.
the type of upholstery used for the seating must be carefully chosen.
from comfort and fire safety issues, a seat requires materials that
roughly approximate the absorption effect of a human body so that
even if it is empty, it doesn't
make the venue sound different."
is always an issue in a theatre because of the noise air-conditioning
systems make. To maintain a noise level of 26 dB, the air velocity
must be kept low. Rather than pushing fresh air through narrow ducts,
therefore, large ducts are installed to allow a large volume of
air to virtually drop into the auditorium. In addition baffles and
silencers were put in to act as mitigators.
Long Theatre has 923 seats in two tiers: 650 in the stalls and 189
in the balcony, plus an additional 84 on the orchestra pit elevator
when it is not needed for the performance. The adjustable proscenium
is 11-15 m wide and 7-9 m high. Its width is adjusted by moveable
towers which, when not needed, can be hoisted away and stored in
the fly tower. The distance from the proscenium to the back of the
stall and from the proscenium to the back of the balcony are both
25.5 m. The stage is 29.5 m wide, 23 m high and 31 m deep, including
the side and rear. The left side and rear stages are separated by
vertical shutters which allow scenery to be moved around in these
areas without the main stage being disturbed.
stage wagon with a 11 m diameter revolving platform can be used
to move scenery between the rear stage and main stage area. Compensating
elevators are used to lower it until it is flush with the floor,
and removable floor modules on the platform and the main stage elevator
allow traps to be installed as needed.
orchestral shell is a moveable one which can be transported using
air castors with tuggers to a dedicated store within the backstage.
A film screen on the back of the shell enables the theatre to be
used for screening 16/35 mm films. Unlike Kwai Tsing Theatre, which
employs a computer-controlled suspension system only, Yuen Long
Theatre has the option to use manual counterweight bars as well
as a computerised suspension system.
the orchestra pit are two lift units which are used to adjust the
size of the forestage. The inner lift adds 30 sq m to the forestage
while the outer lift adds 42 sq m. When both are raised, therefore,
an additional 72 sq m of space will be created to accommodate up
to 86 musicians on stage. The additional seats to be installed on
the orchestra pit are normally stored under the auditorium. These
are mounted on wagons with air castors, to facilitate their move
in and out of storage.
addition to the auditorium, Yuen Long Theatre also contains a dance
studio, a rehearsal room, a lecture room and a restaurant. Both
the dance studio and the rehearsal room are sound-proofed and fitted
with sprung floors.
these facilities are packed into a 14,800 sq m complex expressed
as a series of cubical forms designed to reflect the functional
spaces inside. The facade is clad in pink and grey ceramic tiles
similar to the predominant colour scheme of the area. The west-facing
front elevation is clad in laminated tinted glass to cut UV transmission
and reduce heat gain.
response to the client's
request for a main foyer where small performances and exhibitions
can also be staged, a spacious, 11 m high foyer was created with
a full-length curtain wall providing views of a courtyard, blurring
the difference between indoors and outdoors.
Long Theatre was constructed at a cost of HK$390 million. Open since
mid-2000, it has already played host to a variety of performances,
from ballet to symphonic concert, Cantonese opera to chamber music,
fulfilling its purpose of bringing culture to the masses.
client Leisure &
Cultural Services Department
architect Architectural Services Department
main contractor Woon Lee Construction